Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festival in China. It is also known as the ‘Spring Festival’ - a holiday celebrating the beginning of a New Year, every year starts from the spring, hence we call it Spring Festival. Every year, the date of Spring Festival would be on a different date comparing to the last one. For 2017, the Spring Festival is on 28 January.
到了报名那天早晨，老鼠早就醒来了，可是它光想到自己的事，把好朋友猫的事给忘了。就自己去报名了。 结果，老鼠被选上了。猫呢？猫因为睡懒觉，起床太迟了，等它赶到时，十二种动物已被选定了。 猫没有被选上，就生老鼠的气，怪老鼠没有叫它，从这以后，猫见了老鼠就要吃它，老鼠就只好拼命地逃。 现在还是这样。
怎么让小小的老鼠排在第一名呢？这里也有个故事。 报名那天，老鼠起得很早，牛也起得很早。它们在路上碰到了。牛个头大，迈的步子也大，老鼠个头小，迈得步子也小，老鼠跑得上气不接下气，才刚刚跟上牛。老鼠心里想：路还远着呢，我快跑不动了，这可怎么办？它脑子一动，想出个主意来，就对牛说：“牛哥哥，牛哥哥，我来给你唱个歌。”牛说：“好啊，你唱吧－－－咦，你怎么不唱呀？”老鼠说：“我在唱哩，你怎么没听见？哦，我的嗓们太细了，你没听见。这样吧，让我骑在你的脖子上，唱起歌来，你就听见了。”牛说：“行罗，行罗！”老鼠就沿着牛腿子一直爬上了牛脖子，让牛驮着它走，可舒服了。它摇头晃脑的，真的唱起歌来： 牛哥哥，牛哥哥，过小河，爬山坡，驾，驾，快点儿罗！牛一听，乐了，撒开四条腿使劲跑，跑到报名的地方一看，谁也没来，高兴得昂昂地叫起来：“我是第一名，我是第一名！”牛还没吧话说完，老鼠从牛脖子上一蹦，蹦到地上，吱溜一蹿，蹿到牛前面去了。结果是老鼠得了第一名，牛得了第二名，所以，在十二生肖里，小小的老鼠给排在最前面了。
There is an interesting folktale about how the order of the 12 animals was determined. Once upon a time, the 12 animals quarreled about the order of the cycle. Because every one wanted to take the lead, no decision was made. Finally the animals agreed to ask Jade Emperor, the ruler of all gods in Chinese mythology, to decide the order. Jade Emperor decreed to hold a competition. The animals would run across a river, and each animal’s position in the cycle would be set by its place in the race.
At that time the cat and the rat were very close friends. The cat wanted to take up a position in the cycle, but he was a sleepy head. So the cat told the rat to wake him up the next morning. The rat promised to do so, but the next morning he was so excited about the competition that he forgot to wake up the cat.
All the other animals gathered at the bank of a river, and the race began. The rat jumped into the ox’s ear without being noticed. Just as the ox was about to reach the opposite side of the river, the rat jumped out of his ear, won the race and became the lead sign of the cycle. The ox became the second, and the others also reached the bank one after another. The pig, lazy and slow, ended up last. The cat didn’t wake up until the race was over, but it was too late, and he was not able to make it in the cycle. From then on, the cat and the rat became enemies. The cat hates the rat so much that every time they meet, the cat would chase and try to kill the rat.
守岁，就是在旧年的最后一天夜里不睡觉，熬夜迎接新一年的到来的习俗，也叫除夕守岁，俗名“熬年”。探究这个习俗的来历，在民间流传着一个有趣的故事： 太古时期，有一种凶猛的怪兽，散居在深山密林中，人们管它们叫“年”。它的形貌狰狞，生性凶残，专食飞禽走兽、鳞介虫豸，一天换一种口味，从磕头虫一直吃到大活人，让人谈“年”色变。后来，人们慢慢掌握了“年”的活动规律，它是每隔三百六十五天窜到人群聚居的地方尝一次口鲜，而且出没的时间都是在天黑以后，等到鸡鸣破晓，它们便返回山林中去了。 算准了“年”肆虐的日期，百姓们便把这可怕的一夜视为关口，称作“年关”，并且想出了一整套过年关的办法：每到这一天晚上，每家每户都提前做好晚饭，熄火净灶，再把鸡圈牛栏全部拴牢，把宅院的前后门都封住，躲在屋里吃“年夜饭”，由于这顿晚餐具有凶吉未卜的意味，所以置办得很丰盛，除了要全家老小围在一起用餐表示和睦团圆外，还须在吃饭前先供祭祖先，祈求祖先的神灵保佑，平安地度过这一夜，吃过晚饭后，谁都不敢睡觉，挤坐在一起闲聊壮胆。就逐渐形成了除夕熬年守岁的习惯。
There are many legends that are part of the Chinese culture. Many of them exemplify moral lessons, not so different from Aesop and his fables. One story in particular is the story of Chinese New Years.
Long ago in the mountains, there lived a horrible demon creature named Nian. Every year, on the first day of the year, the creature would awaken and descend upon the village. He would eat all the grain and livestock. And if there were any unfortunately children stuck outside, they would disappear.
The villagers lived in fear of this beast and boarded up their houses on this night to protect their families. One year, right before this event was to occur, an old man visited the village. He turned to the villagers and asked, “Why do you fear this creature such? You are many and he is but one. Surely he could not swallow all of you.”
But the villagers remained skeptical and locked themselves up anyway. That night, Nian did not come. The old man had ridden him until dawn and the creature went back to its cave hungry. This went on for several nights until the old man revealed, “I cannot protect you forever.”
He turned out to be a god and had to return to his duties elsewhere. The villagers were terrified that once the old man left, they would once again see Nian return.
So the old man informed them, “The beast is easily scared. He does not like the color red. He fears loud noises and strange creatures. So tonight, spread red across the village. Hang red signs on every door. Make loud noises with drums, music, and fireworks. And to protect your children, give them face masks and lanterns to protect them.”
The villagers did as the old man instructed and Nian never returned again.
In Chinese, the word for New Years is Guo Nian. Literally translated it means to “pass over Nian” or “overcome Nian”. That is exactly what the villagers did.
It has become a tradition that part of New Year’s celebration is to hang lots of red decoration in your house. Streets are filled with music, loud drums, and fireworks all day long. And special paper lanterns are made in a variety of shapes and sizes, paraded through the streets to scare off any demons that might come.
Thus ends the story of Chinese New Years or Guo Nian.
“The Spring Couplet”, also called “couplet” and “a pair of antithetical phrases”, is a special form of literature in China. The Spring Couplet is composed of two antithetical sentences on both sides of the door and a horizontal scroll bearing an inscription, usually an auspicious phrase, above the gate. The sentence pasting on the right side of the door is called the first line of the couplet and the one on the left the second line. On the eve of the Spring Festival, every household will paste on doors a spring couplet written on red paper to give a happy and prosperous atmosphere of the Festival. In the past, the Chinese usually wrote their own spring couplet with a brush or asked others to do for them, while nowadays, it is common for people to buy the printed spring couplet in the market.
A firecracker (cracker, noise maker, banger, or bunger) is a small explosive device primarily designed to produce a large amount of noise, especially in the form of a loud bang; any visual effect is incidental to this goal. They have fuses, and are wrapped in a heavy paper casing to contain the explosive compound.
关于压岁钱，有一个流传很广的故事。古时候，有一种小妖叫“祟”，大年三十晚上出来用手去摸熟睡着的孩子的头，孩子往往吓得哭起来，接着头疼发热，变成傻子。因此，家家都在这天亮着灯坐着不睡，叫做“守祟”。 有一家夫妻俩老年得子，视为心肝宝贝。到了年三十夜晚，他们怕“祟”来害孩子，就拿出八枚铜钱同孩子玩。孩子玩累了睡着了，他们就把八枚铜钱用红纸包着放在孩子的枕头下边，夫妻俩不敢合眼。半夜里一阵阴风吹开房门，吹灭了灯火，“祟”刚伸手去摸孩子的头，枕头边就迸发道道闪光，吓得“祟”逃跑了。第二天，夫妻俩把用红纸包八枚铜钱吓退“祟”的事告诉了大家，以后大家学着做，孩子就太平无事了。 原来八枚铜钱是八仙变的，暗中来保护孩子的。因为“祟”与“岁”谐音，之后逐渐演变为“压岁钱”。到了明清，“以彩绳穿钱编为龙形，谓之压岁钱。尊长之赐小儿者，亦谓压岁钱”。所以一些地方把给孩子压岁钱叫“串钱”。到了近代则演变为红纸包一百文铜钱赐给晚辈，寓意“长命百岁”。对已成年的晚辈红纸包里则放一枚银元，寓意“一本万利”。货币改为纸币后，长辈们喜欢到银行兑换票面号码相连的新钞票给孩子，祝愿孩子“连连高升”。
During the Chinese New Year period, the married or the elderly give red envelopes to children or unmarried juniors. A red envelope is also called yasui qian (“suppressing Sui money”).
According to legend, on New Year’s Eve, besides the monster Nian, there was a demon named Sui that came out to terrify children while they were asleep.
It was said that the children who were touched by the demon would be too scared to cry out loud, and got a terrible fever and even became mentally unstable. To keep children safe from being harmed by Sui, parents would light candles and stay up for the whole night.
On one New Year’s Eve, in an official’s family household, the parents gave their child eight coins to play with in order to keep him awake, so as to avoid him being hurt by the demon. The child wrapped the coins in red paper, opened the packet, rewrapped it, and reopened it until he was too tired to fall asleep. Then the parents placed the packet with eight coins under his pillow.
When Sui tried to touch his head, the eight coins emitted a strong light and scared the demon away. The eight coins turned out to be eight fairies. From then on, giving red envelopes became a way to keep children safe and bring good luck.
Chinese dumplings begins with Zhang Zhongjing, the man from Chinese history known as the “Medicine Saint.”
Zhang Zhongjing lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty 1800 years ago. Reportedly, Zhang noticed that many people’s ears were frostbitten when he returned to his hometown one winter. He decided to wrap mutton, chilli and some warming medicinal herbs in dough skin. Folding them into the shape of an ear, he boiled them in water before giving them to the poor.
Wang Lingxiang, doctor, said, “All the materials used in Zhang’s recipe could help warm the body, promote the blood flow and then thaw the cold ears. The dumplings also had a wonderful taste so they were well received by the people.”
This food was originally called “Jiao’er” for its shape, and later the name slowly became Jiaozi. Zhang used to distribute them from the day of Winter Solstice to New Year’s Eve, when the villagers had fully recovered from their illness.
Today, Jiaozi is still a must in winter in most parts of northern China, especially during the Spring Festival. No words can precisely describe Chinese people’s affection for dumplings, as the food has already become a symbol of home and warmth.