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Han Hua: A tradition of two tales

2018-02-25

By Han Hua    Source: CGTN   Published: 2018-2-23



I overheard a piece of amusing conversation when two Americans and me were in the waiting room for the dentist appointment. Well, it is not a tradition to see a dentist during the Spring Festival, but this kind of activity may indicate a new tradition for a week-long Spring Festival holiday: more businesses are open as opposed to none or fewer previously, and people can actually do things during the Spring Festival holidays.


Let’s take a look of the conversation between the two Americans:


Man: What did you do during the holiday as a new comer?


Woman: I went to Temple Fair with my Chinese friend. It was at a park. I could not remember the park’s name. No temple there. I expected to see a lot of traditional activities: dragon dance, lanterns, folk performances…but, it turned out to be a wild, really wild fair including a snow carnival, and real penguins!


Man: That sounds wild! And expensive!


Woman: Must be! You pay 100 yuan to get into the park, and for every item you have to pay either 50 yuan or 100 yuan again. That’s a lot!


Man: But 50 yuan is just 8 bucks, or 5 quids. Still reasonable!


Woman: Oh that’s true! Haha…


Sounds hilarious. When China is associated with Spring Festival, you expect to encounter something very traditional, but a new-era China has returned with a rather exotic and imaginative Spring Festival. And this fusion is becoming a part of tradition.


What is in your mind when asked about the top traditions of Spring Festival? In my opinion, there would be the following four rituals.


First, there would be the spring couplets -- to paste on both sides and above the doors to expect the return of spring which means hope, wealth and blessing.


Second, family reunion meals -- dumplings are highlighted and many delicious food are prepared, to share the achievements among family and friends and to honor ancestors as well.


Third, the color -- red will be everywhere, from red packets stuffed with cash to wearing red clothing to bring good luck for the entire year.


Fourth, dragon dancing as well as fireworks to frighten away ghosts and monsters.


There are many more to count. What is more important and encouraging, however, is the way the traditions are evolving now.


Take the red packets as an example. “Hong bao” is a red envelope with gift money (varies from thousands of yuan to a nominal amount depending on the province’s tradition) in it to be handed to kids and elders by relatives and close friends wishing for health, good study and wealth. Money given in this way may not be refused, and the tailored pretty envelopes even confers luck to the gift.


Now, with the swift development of cashless transactions through WeChat and Alipay, sometimes dubbed one of modern China’s four grand new inventions to the world, the red packet has evolved into digital ones with which you can tailor words of blessing and “insert” a specified amount of money with an auspicious meaning such as 88.88 (fortune in Chinese) and 166.66 (lucky all the way in Chinese).


According to WeChat, there is a total of 768 million users choosing the platform`s “red packets” function to send greetings. A young man in Chongqing city was the most generous red packet giver by sending out 2,723 red packets during the Spring Festival, and a person from Nanchang city became the happiest by receiving 3,429 red packets.


Another change this festival is the fireworks. Traditionally,  lighting fireworks symbolizes getting rid of the old and the bad, and welcoming the new and the good.


Firecrackers are also used to add to the merriment of the celebrations. This year people in Beijing enjoyed a continuous blue sky during the Spring Festival holiday, thanks to the ban from Beijing Municipality of fireworks in the downtown (within 5 ring roads) area, after 12 years of fireworks restrictions during special occasions.


In the past you can hear or see fireworks and firecrackers everywhere in Beijing during the Spring Festival holiday, but the ban, coupled with society`s growing consciousness of environmental protection, is driving fireworks, one of the four great inventions from ancient China, to an end.


The spiritual traditions will not end though, for it is gaining new momentum in a modern way. When families and friends are getting together, however faraway and inconvenient, to share in the joy and warmth, and send good wishes to each other for the next year, the tales continue.


When the themes of the Spring Festival, including reunion, peace, affluence, good health, are spread, when China invites people from across the world to join the celebration regardless of their cultural, racial and religious backgrounds, ideals that Chinese people have held for thousands of years, the tales continue.


Han Hua is a research fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: Spring Festival   China   RDCY   Han Hua  

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