The preparations begin a month or so earlier as there are many things to be done before the great day arrives. Shops and supermarkets stock all kinds of Chinese delicacies, eg. sweetmeats, melon seeds and packets of specialities such as groundnuts which the Chinese must obtain and store up for the festival.
In Chinese homes, the womenfolk get busy making cakes, biscuits, glutinous rice cakes and jellies which are stored away carefully, out of the reach of young children. Homes are spruced up, new curtains sewn, and new cushions and carpets bought to give the home a new look. Red lanterns are hung outside and new pots of flowers and Mandarin orange plants are placed in the garden.
Children are the ones who enjoy the festive season most. They receive red packets containing money from their parents and their elders. New dresses are worn and old things cast aside as the New Year is supposed to be the start of a new period in their lives and everyone follows these traditional customs.
On New Year's eve, the whole family gathers in the parents' home for a re-union dinner. Many delicious dishes make up the meal and everyone enjoys himself. This is only the start of the Chinese New Year celebrations which stretch on for a period of fifteen days.
My favorite holiday is the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). The date of the Spring Festival varies each year depending on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. It's the first day of the first lunar month of the lunar calendar. This year, Chinese New Year is on Thursday, February 19. This is the most important Chinese traditional holiday and it isn’t only celebrated in China. Because there are Chinese people outside of mainland China, there are many celebrations held by the Chinese population in other areas of the world, including right here in Lincoln! The Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA) at UNL holds China Night every year to celebrate the Spring Festival.
Families get together on the eve of the Chinese New Year for a big dinner, including pork, beef, chicken, and fish. The dinner gives thanks for the past year and acknowledges the hope for more success in the New Year. During the dinner, there are toasts, when we offer wishes for prosperity for the people in attendance. After dinner, most families will watch TV while eating various delicious deserts.
The traditional Chinese New Year desserts include Eight Treasures Rice Pudding, Candy Tray, and Assorted Candies. My mom told me that when she was a kid, she only got to eat dessert during the Spring Festival, and everything was homemade. Now, we can buy these desserts from grocery stores and most of them are served year-round. My mom talks about what it was like to prepare for New Year’s as a kid. Doing all the cooking took lots of work, but then they enjoyed the treats even more!
At eight o’clock, most families watch the Spring Festival Gala on TV. This program lasts for four hours, going all the way to midnight. Leading up to the New Year, everyone on TV, from the actors to the audience, will count down together on the stage. Since everyone stays up until midnight to greet the New Year, this is a tradition called staying-up. It’s a lot like the New Year countdown in Times Square!
The next day, the first day of the Lunar New Year, people visit friends and relatives to wish them a healthy and wonderful New Year. This is called New Year Visits. Kids are given money in red envelopes by older people. The gift money represents well wishes for the younger generation for a wealthy life. New Year visits are usually made in the morning, and I am always happy to go with my parents because I know I'll get lots of gift money. I enjoy deciding how to spend it!
The Spring Festival is my favorite festival because I'll enjoy lots of delicious food, spend many hours with my family, watch interesting TV programs, and receive gift money.