Little New Year (Chinese: Xiaonian), usually a week before
the lunar New Year, falls on Feb 4 this year. It is also known as the
Festival of the Kitchen God, the deity who oversees the moral character
of each household.
There are numerous customs associated with honoring the Kitchen God
and determining the date of Little New Year. The date of this holiday
was sometimes assigned according to location, with people in northern
China celebrating it on the twenty-third day of the twelfth lunar month,
and people in southern China celebrating it on the twenty-fourth.
Here are six things you should know about the Little New Year, another sign of the start of spring.
1. Offer sacrifices to Kitchen God
In one of the most distinctive traditions of the Little New Year is
the burning of a paper image of the Kitchen God, dispatching the god's
spirit to Heaven to report on the family's conduct over the past year.
The Kitchen God is then welcomed back to the home through the pasting of
a new paper image of him beside the stove. From this vantage point, the
Kitchen God will oversee and protect the household for another year.
The offerings to the Kitchen God include pig's head, fish, sweet bean
paste, melons, fruit, boiled dumplings, barley sugar, and Guandong
candy, a sticky treat made out of glutinous millet and sprouted wheat.
Most of the offerings are sweets of various varieties. It is thought
that this will seal the Kitchen God's mouth and encourage him to only
say good things about the family when he ascends to heaven to make his
report. The Kitchen God will be invited to sit in a sedan chair for his
trip to heaven.
Consequently, the day before Little New Year, the streets and
alleyways are filled with vendors selling papier-mâché sedan chairs and
paper gold and silver ingots for the Kitchen God's journey. There are
even songs in his honor.
Although very few families still make offerings to the Kitchen God on
this day, many traditional holiday activities are still very popular.
2. House cleaning
Between Laba Festival, on the eighth day of the last lunar month, and
Little New Year, on the twenty-third day, families throughout China
undertake a thorough house cleaning, sweeping out the old in preparation
for the New Year.
According to Chinese folk beliefs, during the last month of the year
ghosts and deities must choose either to return to Heaven or stay on
Earth. It is believed that in order to ensure the ghosts and deities'
timely departure people must thoroughly clean both their persons and
their dwellings, down to every last drawer and cupboard.