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How to celebrate Little New Year in Zhangjiagang

Little New Year, or Xiaonian in Chinese is usually celebrated a week before the lunar New Year. The date of this holiday was sometimes assigned according to location, with people in northern China celebrating it on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, and people in southern China celebrating it on the 24th.

Zhangjiagang, Jiangsu province celebrates the festival this year on Feb 9 with a series of local customs.

House cleaning

In the day of Little New Year, families throughout Zhangjiagang undertake a thorough house cleaning, sweeping out the old in preparation for the New Year.

Sweeping out the old in preparation for the New Year. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Offer sacrifices to Kitchen God

The Kitchen God will report to the god of heaven at the end of every year about what happened to human beings. Chinese people held the celebrations expecting the kitchen god to put in a good word for them, and receive good fortune in the New Year.

The offerings to the Kitchen God include pig's head, fish, sweet bean paste, melons, fruit, boiled dumplings, and barley sugar.

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.

Offer sacrifices to Kitchen God. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Writing couplets

Couplets and the "Fu" character are both must for the Spring Festival in China. A couplets is a pair of lines of poetry bearing auspicious meaning or wishes written in calligraphy on two rolls of red paper. Before the Spring Festival, every family puts up a pair of couplets on both sides of their doors.

Paste paper-cuts to windows

Similar to the couplets, paper-cuts are used as window decorations to create a festive atmosphere. With a pair of scissors and a piece of red paper, craftsmen could create a variety of different decorations, from "Fu" characters to Zodiac dogs, or decorative patterns featuring flowers and other auspicious elements.

Manufactured paper-cut works can also be found in all supermarkets in China during the Spring Festival, but many still prefer to buy hand-made ones, out of respect to the traditions and craftsmanship.

Bath or hair-cut

As the old Chinese saying goes, whether they're rich or poor, people often have a haircut before the Spring Festival. The activity of taking bath and haircut is often taken on the Little New Year.