Family still the beating heart of Spring Festival

Updated 2017-01-25 09:23:56 China Daily

People are always lamenting that the flavor of Spring Festival, which falls on Jan 28 this year, has waned and it is not what it used to be, as a result how to preserve this Chinese tradition has become a hot topic.

People used to get busy preparing for the Lunar New Year celebrations at the beginning of the last month of the lunar year. Every family would have a long list of necessities to purchase for the most important holiday of the year.

The dinner for the Lunar New Year's Eve was regarded as the most important dinner of the year for families, and it would be eagerly anticipated by kids. It not only meant a family reunion, but also the best possible in an era when people faced a shortage of daily necessities. Most Chinese enjoyed gathering around the dinner table to welcome the New Year.

The festive atmosphere would come to a climax when the bells rang at midnight. People would begin setting off firecrackers in the last month of the lunar calendar, but their quick-fire pops would reach a crescendo as the New Year arrived, as they scared away bad luck and carried people's wishes that everything would go well in the year ahead.

In the following days, people would visit and eat with friends and relatives and enjoy the festive atmosphere at Spring Festival fairs.

However, the situation has changed drastically nowadays. With the remarkable improvement in people's livelihoods since reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, most ordinary Chinese people, even in many rural areas, can easily purchase many good things, beautiful clothes, tasty foods and many kinds of gifts at anytime of the year, not just during Spring Festival.

And thanks to the rapid development of e-commerce and the well-developed delivery network nationwide people not only in urban areas but also in the countryside can purchase what they want, whenever they want in an easy and convenient way. No wonder the Spring Festival fairs are no longer as popular as they used to be.

And, although the Chinese New Year's Eve dinner is still important for most Chinese families, many people in the cities choose to have dinner at a restaurant rather than cooking at home. Also, thanks to a greater awareness of how detrimental setting off fireworks is to the air quality, more and more people are choosing to forgo the activity that used to be such an explosive part of the celebrations.

The traditions of Spring Festival link different generations in a family and indeed the country together. I understand the feeling that many people, especially the elderly, have toward the changing character of Spring Festival.

But there is no holding back time and social customs are not fixed, inflexible rules, instead they evolve over time in tune with the changes in society. Instead of feeling sad about the losing Spring Festival traditions, I would rather look on the bright side of this social transition.

To some extent, people's waning enthusiasm for Spring Festival is due to the big improvements in people's livelihoods. They no longer have to save to buy the best food they can for the celebration, most can eat what they like, when they like. And people living in the countryside no longer have to rely on the fairs to select merchandise that would otherwise be unavailable, as they can now use the internet to easily purchase commodities that once only were sold in the urban areas. And the environment-friendly trend of not setting off fireworks is becoming more evident year by year.

In addition, changes to these old Spring Festival traditions don't mean that Chinese people no longer cherish the spirit: The most important part of Spring Festival is still the family, that's something that hasn't changed.

The author Wang Yiqing is a writer with China Daily.

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