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.
Also read: The 15 Days of Chinese New Year (Part I)
Day 11: The Dragon Dance Festival
In Binyang County, Guangxi, this is the day to celebrate the Dragon Dance festival, which is also known as Pao Long Jie (Chinese 炮龙节). It is also the day to welcome Zi Gu, the Purple Lady, the Goddess of the Latrine. In Buddhism, the deity is said to destroy defilement while in Zen monasteries, the latrine, the bathroom and the mediation hall or refectory are regarded as the three “silent places” for contemplation. According to mythology, Zi Gu was a concubine of a rich man in ancient China. However, the wife of the rich man murdered her in the toilet due to jealousy. Having compassion for Zi Gu, the Heavenly God made her the Goddess of the Toilet, Outhouses, and Washrooms. Today, Zi Gu represents all females who groan under the oppression of a feudal society. Women worship her and regard her as the guardian angel for weak females. Additionally, she is associated with health, well-being and fertility.
Day 12: The Burning of Cypress
After eleven days of non-stop eating, the twelfth day of Chinese New Year marks the beginning of returning to a lighter diet. It is also the day that everyone starts to prepare for the Lantern Festival which will take place in three days on the fifteenth day of Chinese New Year. Notably, in some places the tradition is to make a fire with cypress branches that people will gather around to warm themselves as well as to drive out any evil spirits and pestilence. Some will even carve the burned cypress into the shape of a lock, whereby parents make a necklace of the lock carving and give it to babies for blessing.
Day 13: The Birthday of the God of War
Another mellow day, people are now keeping things simpler and are already preparing for Chap Goh Meh. However, this is also the death anniversary of General Guan You, or better known as the God of War. Born during the Han dynasty, and is revered as the greatest general to have ever existed, Guan Yu played a significant role in the civil war that led to the collapse of the Han Dynasty and the establishment of the state of Shu Han (founded by Liu Bei) in the Three Kingdoms period. Consequently, Guan has been deified as the God of Wealth and Success, and is worshipped by many today to pray for safety and money luck.
Day 14: The Lantern Decoration Day
The day before the Lantern Festival, the Lantern Display stage will be building on the open square in the front of temples. Some people would spend months to complete a delicate lantern and will proudly bring their custom designed piece to the display stage for the annual competition. Today, candles are rarely used to lid the lantern due to safety reasons. Instead, electricity is a popular choice. On this day, participates would take the opportunity to test the lanterns at night to prepare for the next day. Also, performances lined up for the Lantern Festival will old their rehearsals on this day. Almost too often, the most popular lantern is always related to the Chinese zodiac animal of the new year.
Day 15: The Lantern Festival
The Lantern Festival is called Yuanxiao (Chinese : ) Festival in China as this is the day where they eat Yuanxiao, a dish similar to Tangyuan (Chinese : ). Notably, the day is also called Sanyuan (Chinese : ) Festival in Taoism, which celebrates the birthday of the Heaven Officer who blesses human luck. The Lantern Festival revolves around a beautiful crane that flew down to earth from heaven but was hunted and killed by some villagers. Consumed by anger, the God of Heaven wanted to seek revenge for his favourite bird and planned a storm of fire to destroy the village on the fifteenth lunar day. The Jade Emperor’s daughter took pity on the village and warned them of her father’s plan. Scared and dismayed, the villagers were in turmoil as they have no idea on how they could escape their imminent destruction. Thankfully, a wise man from another village suggested that every family should hang red lanterns around their houses, set up bonfires on the streets, and set firecrackers on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth lunar days. The villages duly followed the advice. On the fifteenth lunar day, the heavenly troops which were sent down to destroy the village saw that the village was already ablaze, and returned to heaven to report to the Jade Emperor. Satisfied, the Jade Emperor decided not to burn down the village. From that day on, people celebrate the anniversary on the fifteenth lunar day every year by carrying lanterns as well as setting firecrackers and fireworks. Besides the lantern display, riddles will be hung underneath each lantern as well, with questions relating to the lantern displays, news or popular persons in town.