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My Hometown Celebrations and the Story of Nian
By Yvette Lu
I am from a minority area in Guangxi, China. We have many traditions for celebrating the spring festival. Family members get together, no matter how far away they are, they will go back home for the spring festival. On the Chinese New Year Eve, all family members will have dinner together. It is a full table with traditional dishes being served and it is considered as the reward of one year’s hard work. After dinner, we may watch the Spring Gala of China Center TV, and sometimes we will have a family party. The most important thing on that night is the Midnight firecracker. It is a tradition to welcome in the New Year, when the clock strikes 12 o clock, midnight people set off firecrackers and fireworks that are extremely loud. Everywhere in the village firecrackers rise up and it would be impossible to sleep. Kids stay awake for this and the noise will last at least a half hour or longer.
I will share some history about this holiday known as Chinese New Year, or more commonly known in China as The Spring Festival. Legend focuses on the story of Nian. Long, long ago, there was a monster named Nian. It would come to different villages in China to eat people when spring came. Finally, the villagers came up with an idea to defend themselves when they found that the monster was afraid of fire. So they cut down some bamboo, put it outside the village, and then lit it on fire. When the monster Nian came to the village, the bamboo burned and made sounds like “bang bang”. The monster was scared and went away.
To celebrate their victory in the battle against the monster, people decided to make it a festival and it was called The Spring Festival. When the festival comes, people will burn fireworks and firecrackers (which sounds “bang, bang”, like the bamboo burns) to celebrate the New Year. That is the origin of the Chinese New Year. Nowadays, people celebrate Spring Festival with the key elements of burning fireworks and firecrackers.
Here are some photos from my hometown that shows different aspects of the celebration. The first photo is of the “100 feast”, which means all people in the village take some dishes from home, and then get together in order to have “100 dishes” all together. Visitors are welcome to join them. The “100 feasts” event can happen at other traditional festivals, such as midwinter solstice as well.
Of course, food is a main element of different parts of the celebration. The picture above shows glutinous rice cake being made. The first step of making the cake is to steam the glutinous rice. Secondly, it is put it in a stone cistern in order to beat the rice with a wooden stick until it becomes a sticky cake. This picture shows the second step of the process. You can see two men striking the rice with the sticks. When this is do ne repeatedly the rice in the stone cistern turns ropy.It is the largest feast of the year and just being together with family is really key! Some people in America describe Chinese New Year as similar to the American holidays of New Years, Fourth of July and Christmas all rolled into one celebration. It is definitely the most important celebration for all Chinese people.