Kitchen Gods and Mythical Beasts

During this time, everyone eats malt sugar (灶糖zaotang), baked wheaten cakes (火烧huoshao), sweet cakes (糖糕tanggao), deep-fried dough cakes (youbing) and drinks tofu soup (豆腐doufu tang). After this, the Spring Festival can truly begin.

There are two main activities during the Spring Festival. The first is 扫尘 (sao chen). This part of the festival is celebrated on the 24th of December. Everyone cleans the house: mop the floors, dusts every nook and cranny, and makes sure everything is sparkling once the cleaning is done. This ensures that there will be joy in the new year.

The second activity is celebrated on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Tanila says that this part of the festival is the most important social activity. During this part of the holiday, the whole family--in Tanila’s case, her parents, her aunt and uncle and her grandma (and this year, me!)--will stay up the whole night to sit and talk and play games. It is a time to spend together to ensure that you will walk into the New Year with loved ones all around you.

Why does the community have this tradition?:

Chinese New Year is a holiday that has been celebrated in China for many centuries. The legend of this holiday is that many centuries ago, the Chinese people had to fight off a beast who looked like an ox, had the head of a lion and lived in the sea. This beast was called “Year” or “” (Nian) in Chinese. Every New Year’s Eve, “Year” would come out and terrorize the people and animals. Eventually, the people learned that the “Year” was afraid of the color red, fire and loud noises.