Celebrating Chinese New Year far from home

We are in 2021 since more than a month, but for Chinese, we have to be patient to wait until February 12th 2021 when the Chinese New Year begins. It’s my 8th year since I settled down in south of France, far away from my family in Beijing…  However, it doesn’t matter where we are; celebration of the Chinese New Year is no doubt one of the most important festivals for all the Chinese.

Spring Festival (Chun Jie) is how we call the Chinese New Year by the Chinese. The date is determined by Chinese Lunar Calendar. This year, it will begin on Feb. 12th, and it will last for 15 days till Feb. 26th.

Pre-New Year: The preparation for the New Year is almost a month before the big date. There are several dates that should be celebrated as well: “La Ba”, means the 8th day of winter (Chinese Lunar Calendar), we should prepare marinated garlic, cook preserved meat; and, three days before the New Year, we celebrate the “Small New Year” (Xiao Nian). Before the New Year, everyone must clean up the house, decorate rooms with paper cut-outs, couplets and red lanterns; haircuts, purchasing new clothes symbolize a new start.

New Year’s Eve:  is our most important Reunion Dinner.

  • What we eat? Abundant dishes like fish, chicken, pork, vegetables… especially those dishes have names and looks of wishes for prosperity, happiness and auspiciousness.  If you ask me to name two dishes that we must eat, one is dumpling (Jiao Zi).  We eat dumpling after dinner before midnight, which signifies wealth and reunion. Another one is rice cake (Nian Gao), because it has a homophonous meaning of a prosperous year.
  • What we do? Traditionally at midnight, we light fireworks and burn firecrackers to scare away the evil spirits. But nowadays, for the security reason, fireworks are no more allowed in the city, or it can be done only in the special zones. 
  • How we dress? Chinese traditional dresses of course. Normally Qi Pao for women, Tang Zhuang for men. And the most important, we should always have something red on ourselves, no matter what, as Chinese believe Red color can scare off the bad spirits and bring the good luck.

New year days: Blessing the new year (Bai Nian) to family members and friends during all the festival period. The first day is the day to honor the elder family members. We visit parents, grandparents, wishing everyone a healthy and wealthy year. The elder persons will prepare the Red Envelopes (Hong Bao) which contains money to the children. It will suppress the evil spirits, bring a safe year to the children. 

People goes to the temple to pray for a smooth and prosperous year; some invites “lion dance” group to performance the dance at their residence, while most of the people visits open markets (Miao Hui), where you can find all traditional foods, handcrafts, flowers, toys, Gongfu shows and folk dance shows.

The 15th day – Lantern Festival: This is the last day of celebration, lantern shows are organized in all the cities, usually in public parks.  The visits are during the evening time, while all the lanterns are lighted up… At home, we light up the paper lanterns and eat sweet dumplings (Tang Yuan / Yuan Xiao). So yummy!

“The cleverest housewife can’t cook a meal without rice”, this is we say in Chinese.  So here are some Chinese grocery stores in this region where I find all I need: PANDA Épicerie Asiatique in Aix-en-Provence, China Market at Plan de Campagne and Asia Market in Manosque. Plus, there is also an online store.

The New Year is coming, are you ready? I wish everyone a prosperous year of the Ox!

Xin Nian Kuai Le! 新年快乐! Gong Xi Fa Cai! 恭喜发财!

By Zheng Liu

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