The Spring Festival is the most important festival for the Chinese people and is when all family members get together, just like Christmas in the West.
Strictly speaking, the Spring Festival starts every year in the early days of the 12th lunar month and will last till the mid 1st lunar month of the next year. Of them, the most important days are Spring Festival Eve and the first three days. The Chinese government now stipulates people have seven days off for the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Preparation for the Spring Festival
Before the New Year comes, people begin decorating their clean rooms featuring an atmosphere of rejoicing and festivity. All the door panels will be posted with Spring Festival couplets, highlighting Chinese calligraphy with black characters on red paper.
The content varies from house owners' wishes for a bright future to good luck for the New Year. The Chinese character "fu" (meaning blessing or happiness) is a must. The character put on paper can be pasted normally or upside down, for in Chinese the "reversed fu福" is homophonic with "fu comes", both being pronounced as "fudaole." People attach great importance to Spring Festival Eve.
Spring Festival Eve
At that time, all family members eat dinner together. The meal is more luxurious than usual. Dishes such as chicken, fish, and bean curd cannot be excluded, for in Chinese, their pronunciations, respectively "ji", "yu" and "doufu," mean auspiciousness, abundance, and richness.
Waking up on New Year, everybody dresses up. First, they extend greetings to their parents. Then each child will get money as a New Year gift. People in northern China will eat jiaozi, or dumplings, for breakfast, as they think "jiaozi" in sound means "bidding farewell to the old and ushering in the new".
Also, the shape of the dumpling is like gold ingot from ancient China. So people eat them and wish for money and treasure. Southern Chinese eat Nian Gao (New Year cake made of glutinous rice flour) on this occasion, because as a homophone, Nian Gao means "higher and higher, one year after another."
China has 56 ethnic groups. Minorities celebrate their Spring Festival almost the same say as the Han people, and they have different customs.