While the English Christmas carol highlights the increasingly grand gifts given on each of the 12 days of Christmas, we present you the daily rhythms of the Spring Festival which starts with the new moon of the first lunar phase of the Chinese New Year and ends with the full moon 15 days later.
Side note : According to the Chinese legend: Nvwa (Chinese: 女媧) is the goddess who created the world. It is said that she also created certain animals on different days, hence each day is considered the birthday of the corresponding animal, while humans were created from yellow clay on the seventh day after the creation of the world.
Also read : The 15 Days of Chinese New Year (Part III)
Day 6: The Birthday of the Horse
After welcoming the God of Wealth on the fifth day, the sixth day is to send off the Ghost of Poverty. It’s a good day to clean out the garage, discard old, dirty and unwanted things in the house. Then, candles are lit to help illuminate the path that will lead the Ghost of Poverty away. According to folklore, the Ghost of Poverty was the son of Zhuan Xu, one of the emperors of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors of ancient China. He was short and weak, and preferred wearing ragged clothes and consuming bland porridge. Even when others presented him with new clothes, he would not wear them. Instead, he would rip them apart or burn them before wearing them. Soon, he was christened “the man of the poor”, and with time, he became the Ghost of Poverty.
Day 7: The Birthday of the Human
The Day of Mankind on the seventh day of the first lunar month is named Ren Ri (Chinese: 人日) and is considered the birthday of all humans. It is said that Nüwa created certain animals on certain days as she was lonesome and that she wanted animals as company. On the seventh day after the creation of the world, the goddess created human beings from yellow clay. With the divine power entrusted upon her, Nüwa made the clay figurines alive. Today, to honour Nüwa, celebrations like making human-shaped paper cut-outs, hiking, and composing poems date back to China’s Han dynasty take place on this day. In China’s southern Chaoshan region, people prepare soup composed of seven vegetables (link in Chinese), including Chinese kales, garlic chives and celeries, to ward off diseases and avoid bad luck, whereas in Malaysia and Singapore, either a vegetable dish or a raw fish salad called Yusheng is consumed as a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigour.
Day 8: The Birthday of Rice
On the eighth day is when people pay tribute to rice, a staple food in the Chinese diet since ancient China. In folk proverbs there is a saying that goes, if the day is bright and clear, the year will bring forth a good harvest; otherwise, the year will suffer a poor harvest. Subsequently, this is also the day when the Fujian people host their family reunion dinners before praying to the Jade Emperor at midnight to celebrate his birthday on the ninth day of the Chinese New Year. To honour the Ruler of Heaven, people of Fujian descent will cook special meat dishes as offerings as well as lighting fireworks, incense, lamps and red lanterns.
Day 9: The Birthday of the Jade Emperor
Prayers are performed, incense is lit. The ninth day is basically a continuation of the grand celebration of the Jade Emperor’s birthday, the supreme deity of Taoism. Marked by feasts and offerings in his honour, firecrackers will be set off continuously from midnight of the eighth day till the dawn of the ninth day.
Day 10: The Birthday of the God of Stone
As odd as it may sound, on this day, it is forbidden to move any stone, including stone rollers, stone mills and stone mortars. This could be due to the reason that the word stone in mandarin (Chinese : 石) is identical in the sound to ten (Chinese : 十). On the Stone Day, people were not allowed to deploy stone-made farming tools as it would affect the yield of the crops. In addition, people are also advised not to extract stone from the quarry nor to build a house using rocks. Instead, families should burn incense and candles to honour stone, and offer pancakes to the deity. The story begins that the tenth day of Chinese New Year was the day to celebrate the marriage of mice too. As told by legends in the Southern Yangtze River region, a mice is a pest. By marrying it off, one would ensure a peaceful and lucky new year. Families would not open boxes or cabinets or even go to bed early so as not to disturb the mice. Some would put out candies and peanuts in the corners of the house as a dowry for the mouse. To this day, pictures and paper cut-outs of the marriage of mice are popular among the people in China.