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The inside of Chinese New Year

Updated: 2012-01-30 11:24
By Mariela Yuvinka Peña (

China Daily website is inviting foreigner readers to share your China Story! and here are some points that we hope will help contributors:

If I have to choose my favorite experience in China, the one that I'm about to tell you, will be the one, so be my guest and let me introduce you to it.

I've been in China for almost one year and a half, and let me tell you something, it's been quite of adventure, in this journey I had the opportunity to meet lots of people, from kids to old people, and you know what? I don't have a favorite one, because I love the whole Chinese family, each one and every one of them has an essence and the identity of Chinese culture.

The inside of Chinese New Year

The author (center) poses with her Chinese friends at a temple fair in Beijing. [Photo provided to]  

For the last couple of days I had the opportunity to spend the Spring Festival with a typical Chinese family, my Chinese friend, Selina let me live the inside of this heritage of the Chinese tradition, that was surreal.

The first thing that I experienced was to help to hang "spring couplets" on the doors. Spring couplets are paper scrolls and paintings and words written with blessings of good omen, such as good luck, wealth, longevity and spring time. The paper squares are usually pasted upside down, because the equivalent letter in Mandarin for "backwards", dao, is homophonous with the word "arrival". Thus, the paper squares represent the "arrival" of spring and the "arrival" of more prosperous times.

Like all Chinese festivals, food plays an important role, and this time wasn't the exception, I had a dinner at Selina's grandpa's house and I realize that in this occasion, tend to be particularly sumptuous. Many of the dishes prepared for this occasion are served because they are considered as symbols of good luck. For example, fish (yu) represent "wealth", the chives (chiu-tsai) means "eternity" turnips (tsai-tou) symbolize "good omen" whilefish balls (yu-wan), meat (jou-wan) represent "”meeting”, and the dumplings (jiaozhi) this last one was my favorite, because this one has to be done by all of the members of the family, giving the glimpse and meaning of this beautiful celebration.

After the dinner most of the Chinese families wait for the beginning of one TV program, where it shows all kind of performance and for me the most impressive one was the Dragon's dance, then at midnight all sky is cover by beautiful fireworks.

At that time, family members provided "lucky money" in red envelopes to elders and children, and stay up all night to welcome the New Year. The Chinese people have long believed that staying awake throughout the night New Year's Eve helps their parents to have a longer life. Thus, lights are kept on all night to ward off not only Nien, as in ancient times but also as an excuse to keep most of the family gathered.

Another typical tradition is visit the Temple Fairs (Miao Hui) that has a huge variety of activities like carnival's games, shopping and of course food where you can find all kinds of Chinese snacks. Walking along Longtanhu Temple Fair and visiting the stall kind of somehow instill the meaning of family, friendship and the sense of belonging.

Live inside this significant tradition, with a Chinese family was an everlasting experience. I'm happy to live in China and have good friends like Selina and her family, I can guarantee you, this friendship, will last for as long as we'll live.

True friendship doesn't have a happy ending because true friendship doesn't end, and my Chinese family will always be in my heart.

The author is from Bolivia, and she is doing her master degree at University of Science and Technology Beijing.

The opinions expressed do not represent the views of the China Daily website.

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The inside of Chinese New Year