Ancient and modern
   
 
Spring Festival customs

‘It’s Spring Festival!’ Spring Festival came among children’s cheers. Children would expect fire crackers, new clothes and lucky money. Adults would take stock of the past year, offer sacrifices to ancestors and gods, and organize family reunions. Spring Festival was the much-craved reward for a busy year.

 

La Ba (the eighth of the last lunar month)

For Beijingers, Spring Festival starts with eating La Ba porridge on the eighth of the last lunar month. As the saying goes, ‘La Ba porridge sends the message (of Spring Festival)’. On the eighth of the twelfth month every year, monks in Buddhist temples would chant scriptures, hold religious ceremonies, and offer porridge to Buddha. That was the origin of the folk practice of making porridge on that day.

 

Making offerings to the Kitchen God

At first, offerings were made to ancestors who invented cooking. Later this changed into making offerings to the Kitchen God. In modern times, it became a folk practice to offer sugar melons to the Kitchen God. Folklore has it that the Kitchen God reports to Jade Emperor about the family on the twenty-fourth of the last month, so offerings are made to him on the previous day in the hope that he would speak well of the family and bring happiness to them. That day is called ‘Minor New Year’.

 

New Year’s Eve

Spring Festival comes soon after Minor New Year. When the family reunion dinner is over, fire cracks will be lit and the whole family will stay up all night, welcoming the god and making jiaozi. No one may go to bed until the dawn when New Year Greeting is paid. To the elderly, this means the valuing of time as the New Year (Spring Festival) is ushered in. To the young, it signifies the wish for their parents to live long.

 

Temple fairs

During the Spring Festival, temple fairs are the busiest places in the city. They originated in She Ji, an age-old kind of religious rite. Temple fairs in Beijing are said to have begun in the Liao Dynasty. In the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, as Beijing became the national capital, temple fairs became more popular. In the Qing Dynasty, they were still better developed.

 

Lantern Festival

The fifteenth of the first lunar month, the first night with a full moon, is Lantern Festival, also called Yuanxiao Festival. On this day, people would eat a sort of food called yuanxiao. Lanterns will be hung everywhere, at houses and shops in and out of the city. People will guess ‘lantern riddles’, light fire crackers, appreciate lanterns, and watch operas.

 

Hutong

There are 3,600 Hutong with names, and those without names are innumerable. Hutong abound in interesting anecdotes. Quadrangle Dwellings (siheyuan) in Hutongs, homes of many generations of Beijingers, are centers of common people’s lives.

 

Gate Blocks

Gate blocks serve to support and fix gates of a courtyard and signify the status of its owner. The pivots, inserted in the central grooves, are secure and kept clear of the ground to prevent corrosion.