The New Year's Eve refers to the last day of a year. As the Chinese New Year based on the lunisolar calendar is called the Spring Festival, the last day of a year is called the Spring Festival Eve or lunar New Year's Eve in China. It marks the end of the old year. Like the first day of the New Year, the Spring Festival Eve is also the peak time for the Chinese people to celebrate the New Year. People would try their best to come home for the family reunion dinner on the Spring Festival Eve and ring out the old year and celebrate the coming year together.
Date of Chinese Spring Festival Eve
The Chinese Spring Festival Eve usually falls on December 29th or 30th of the Chinese lunar calendar. In 2019, it falls on Feb. 4. Just check the exact date of each year in the following table:
Solar Date (Gregorian Date)
December 30th, 2017
February 15th, 2018
December 30th, 2018
February 4th, 2019
December 30th, 2019
January 24th, 2020
December 30th, 2020
February 11th, 2021
December 29th, 2021
January 31st, 2022
Traditions and Customs
There are many traditions on the Spring Festival Eve. Cleaning and decorating houses, hanging lanterns, pasting Spring Festival scrolls, worshipping the ancestors, setting firecrackers, launching fireworks, being together to have a reunion dinner, watching Spring Festival evening party broadcast and guarding the age are the most popular ones.
The most important tradition on the Spring Festival Eve is the Reunion Dinner. The Chinese people usually attach great importance to the family. The dinner at the last day of a year is very important for them to express their love. People no matter where they are would try their best to come back home for the Reunion Dinner. It would be the happiest time for family members get together to prepare and eat the dinner.
The dinner is richer and more sumptuous than usual including chicken, fish, pork, shrimp, vegetables and more. In northern China, Dumplings (Jiaozi) is usually indispensible and in southern China Niangao (a kind of cake made of glutinous rice flour) is a must. Since the shape of the dumplings resembles an ingot, eating them symbolizes the gaining of wealth. A coin is usually wrapped inside one dumpling. The people who eat it is said to have good luck for the coming year. Eating Niangao indicates an increasingly prosperous new year. Eating fish on the New Year's Eve also has a special meaning. In Chinese, fish means 'yu' which has the same pronunciation with the Chinese word meaning surplus. Eating fish symbolizes 'Surplus Year after Year' in China. Having liquor during the dinner is regarded as auspicious because in Chinese liquor has the same pronunciation with the longevity word.
Nowadays, with the improvement of the level of people's lives, some families choose to have the reunion dinner at restaurants. This can be mostly seen in cities.
Watching Spring Festival Evening Party Broadcast
At 20:00 o'clock on the Spring Festival, the Spring Festival Evening Party Broadcast (CCTV New Year's Gala) begins on TV. Most people in China would sit together to watch the broadcast. Some families may have dinner, some chat and some wrap dumpling while watching the program. The program lasts for 4 to 5 hours accompanying the families to welcome the New Year.
Guarding the Age (or Year)
It is a tradition that after the rich reunion dinner on the Spring Festival Eve, all the family members gather to stay awake all night. This staying together during the time between the years is called Shou Sui in Chinese meaning guarding the age or the year. By doing this, people think their age can be delayed to grow. Family members stay all night by doing all kinds of things. Some watch TV, some wrap dumplings, some set firecrackers and some may play games together. Although stay awake all the night, they get up very early in the New Year's morning because people will greet each other in the early morning.
Setting Firecrackers and Launching Fireworks
On the New Year's Eve, setting firecrackers and launching fireworks are indispensible activities for the Chinese people. Firecracker is invented by the Chinese people and has a history of over 2,000 years. The tradition of setting fireworks comes from the legend of Nian. Nian is monster appearing during the Spring Festival and it fears noises. By setting fireworks, it can be scared away. So, the Chinese people set firecrackers and launching fireworks at night and throughout the New Year's Day. It adds jubilant atmosphere to the festival and brings great happiness to the people.
It's a grand folk custom of worshipping ancestors during the Spring Festival. On the Spring Festival Eve, people would put the ancestors' photos (or paintings) and tablets in the center of the tribute table. Delicious food including dishes, fruits, flowers and wine are usually offered to the ancestors before the tablets. In the evening of the festival eve, before the reunion dinner, ancestors should be sacrificed first which means the spirits of the ancestors would be invited to celebrate the festival together. Family members burn sticks of incense and kowtow to them. By doing this, they show their miss to ancestors and in return hope they could bless the family to be good in the coming new year. The worship usually lasts to the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
Before the evening of the New Year's Eve, Spring Festival couplets (Red posters with poetic verses) are usually pasted at the house gate. The Character 'Fu' with the meaning of blessing and happiness or the goalkeeper pictures are pasted on the front door and delicate Chinese paper-cut on windows. Some families would also paste the New Year pictures on the wall in the house. These all show people's hope to be good and prosperous in the next year.