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15 July 2015

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Customs and Practices in Different Regions of Hunan

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Spring Festival customs are similar in the whole nation, but different places in Hunan have its own features.

The Laba festival signifies that people are ready for the coming Lunar New Year. On the 8th day of the 12th lunar month, many families make Laba porridge, a delicious kind of porridge made with glutinous rice, millet, seeds of Job's tears, jujube berries, lotus seeds, beans, longan and gingko.

The 23rd day of the 12th lunar month is called Preliminary Eve. At this time, people offer sacrifice to the kitchen god. Now however, most families make delicious food to enjoy themselves. 

After the Preliminary Eve, people begin preparing for the coming New Year. This is called "Seeing the New Year in". 

Store owners are busy then as everybody goes out to purchase necessities for the New Year. Materials not only include edible oil, rice, flour, chicken, duck, fish and meat, but also fruit, candies and kinds of nuts. What's more, various decorations, new clothes and shoes for the children as well as gifts for the elderly, friends and relatives, are all on the list of purchasing. 

Before the New Year comes, the people completely clean the indoors and outdoors of their homes as well as their clothes, bedclothes and all their utensils. 

Then people begin decorating their clean rooms featuring an atmosphere of rejoicing and festivity. All the door panels will be pasted with Spring Festival couplets, highlighting Chinese calligraphy with black characters on red paper. The content varies from house owners' wishes for a bright future to good luck for the New Year. Also, pictures of the god of doors and wealth will be posted on front doors to ward off evil spirits and welcome peace and abundance. 

The Chinese character "fu" (meaning blessing or happiness) is a must. The character put on paper can be pasted normally or upside down, for in Chinese the "reversed fu" is homophonic with "fu comes", both being pronounced as "fudaole." What's more, two big red lanterns can be raised on both sides of the front door. Red paper-cuttings can be seen on window glass and brightly colored New Year paintings with auspicious meanings may be put on the wall. 

Hunanese attach great importance to Spring Festival Eve. At that time, all family members eat dinner together. The meal is more luxurious than usual. Dishes such as chicken, fish and bean curd cannot be excluded, for in Chinese, their pronunciations, respectively "ji", "yu" and "doufu," mean auspiciousness, abundance and richness. 

When Hunan people prepares family reunion dinner, they are very mindful for two things: chicken should be cooked as a whole, and its head put upward on the dishes; steamed fish should be cooked with red chili on and the fish can’t be eaten up on the Eve, signifying a year of surplus and prosperity.

After dinner, the whole family will sit together, chatting and watching Live TV performances. And many will stay up to greet the New Year. 

Everyone dresses up on the fist day. First the younger extend greetings to their parents. Then each child will get cash-filled envelop as a New Year gift. As for the breakfast, Hunan people prefer to eat niangao (New Year cake made of glutinous rice flour) to Jiaozi like most northerners. The Chinese Niangao sounds auspiciously meaning "higher and higher, one year after another."

The first five days in the New Year are a good time for relatives, friends, and classmates as well as colleagues to exchange greetings, gifts and chat leisurely. 

When people get together, they will set fireworks and join in a series of activities such as seeing lion dances, visiting temple fairs and enjoying flower drum opera performances. 

Chinese source: