Is Spring Festival losing its luster?

By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-31 07:17

The old Chinese saying "as happy as spending the New Year" might be outdated now in the busy modern world.

A survey of people's attitude toward Spring Festival, the lunar new year, found that many people think the traditional festival is losing its glamor and isn't bringing the happiness to their lives that it used to.

Conducted by and New Cultural News, the online survey, collecting more than 2,200 ballots, found that about 60 percent called the Spring Festival holiday totally boring, and 70 percent said they probably would not pay a New Year call to their neighbors.

Spring Festival is regarded as the most important festival for Chinese people and an occasion for all family members to get together, like Christmas in the West.

This year it falls on February 18.

But many traditional customs accompanying Spring Festival, however, have weakened in practice.

"Setting off fireworks was once the most typical custom of Spring Festival. People thought the sputtering sound could help drive away evil spirits. However, the activity has been completely or partially forbidden in big cities for years as the government has taken security, noise and pollution factors into consideration.

"In recent years, some cities have begun to allow people to light fireworks during limited hours at Spring Festival, surrendering to public demand. Respecting folk traditions is a gesture of respect toward public opinion."

Zhou Xing, a folklore researcher

"As people gain more income and it becomes easier to buy daily goods, the new year holiday is just like any other day. After long workdays, many people use the New Year holidays to take a rest, rather than visiting friends and neighbours.

"The process of making and enjoying the family dinner on Spring Festival Eve is the most important thing. However, many families would like to eat out to save time and energy."

Li Shunzhi, a resident of Harbin, Heilongjiang

"I enjoy the holidays very much in the countryside. My family has been preparing for Spring Festival more than two weeks before the holiday, cleaning the house, buying holiday goods and decorating the house with paper cuttings. On New Year's Eve, the whole family stays up to see the New Year in, and in the days to follow, a series of activities such as lion dancing, dragon lantern dancing, lantern festivals and temple fairs will be held."

"Without the ancient traditions, the holiday is nothing to us."

Zhang Hui, a Hebei farmer

"China needs to start the process of applying for World Intangible Cultural Heritage status for China's Spring Festival. South Korea's Gangneung Danoje Festival, occurring at the same time as China's Duanwu Festival and rooted in Chinese culture, was included in the UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity list in 2005.

"Why do we Chinese people always wait? Chinese people need to join together to protect our tradition and heritage."

Chen Jing, a professor at Nanjing University

(China Daily 01/31/2007 page5)

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