The most important Chinese holiday in the lunar calendar is Spring Festival. The entire festival lasts about 23 days, typically debuting on the last Lunar calendar month December 23 and ending on January 15, the first month of the New Year in the Lunar calendar.
Just like a beautiful long-lasting piece of ceremonial music, Spring Festival consists of four parts – prelude, processional, recessional, and finale. To observe the Kitchen God marks the prelude of Spring Festival when a thorough cleaning of the house is done in preparation for the celebration of the New Year Festival.
Its processional begins on New Year’s Eve which is the last day of the old year. It consists of ritualistic acts such as hanging or pasting red posters of Chinese character couplets on the doors of the house, conveying auspicious meanings or positivity to bring about good luck, playing fireworks to dispel the Ni’an monsters or bad luck away, having the family reunion dinner consisting of an even and lucky number of dishes such as six, eight, ten or more on the table, and watching the CCTV Spring Festival Gala or Chunwan, an annual national pastime which debuted in 1983, till the arrival of the first day of the New Year.
The processional does not stop there. It merely pauses for a short lull of sleep till the morning of the first day of the Spring and the New Year when all family members wake up, wash up and get dressed up in new clothes, deliver auspicious greetings to each other, and have a bowl of rice wine consisting of rice balls symbolizing reunion as breakfast. Kids are given red envelopes of cash by adults.
The rest of the days are spent visiting or receiving relatives, neighbors, and friends. Feasts are hosted by each household in the neighborhood or among friends and relatives on a rotating basis for the first few days of the New Year. Recessional follows in the mood of festivity till January 15, a day of a communal celebration when villagers or townspeople gather together to be entertained by lion dances or dragon dances which mark the Grand Finale of the Festival.
Boost in tourism
In recent years, however, urban middle-class Chinese have taken an unconventional approach to the celebration of the Lunar New Year. Instead of celebrating the festival in the traditional way as described above, more and more of them travel to foreign destinations in Asia, the U.S., Europe, and even Africa and Latin America.
As these middle-class Chinese tourists are found to spend four or five times as much money as an average tourist of non-Chinese descent during Spring Festival time, top tourist attractions in foreign countries such as Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, London and Paris and so on have made cultural adaptations and accommodations such as serving Chinese cuisine, hanging lanterns and providing signs in Chinese in shopping malls and hotels and so on to attract more Chinese tourists. Some of them even host lion or dragon dances.
During the past several years, Los Angeles and Paris, for example, have each hosted 7,000 Chinese tourists during the Spring Festival. With Chinese tourists going global, the Spring Festival goes global with them as well.