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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in China Series at ChineseClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Chinese holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 18. The Little New Year. In Chinese, it’s called 小年 (xiǎo nián).
The twenty-third or twenty-fourth day of the twelfth lunar month is a day set aside to worship the Kitchen God, or 灶神 (zàoshén), commonly known as “celebrating the Little New Year.” The coming of the "Little New Year" marks the beginning of a family’s New Year celebrations. During this time, people begin buying New Year goods and prepare for the upcoming Spring Festival.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question-
In China, celebrating the Spring Festival is known as “celebrating the Big New Year." Why do the Chinese celebrate the “Little New Year,” too?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
The Little New Year is also known as the Kitchen God Festival or 祭灶节 (jìzào jié). The date of this holiday differs depending on status. In ancient China, there was a tradition called “official three civilian four fisherman five” or 官三民四船五 (guān sān mín sì chuán wǔ). In this tradition, feudal officials made their offerings to the Kitchen god on the twenty-third, the common people on the twenty-fourth, and coastal fishing people on the twenty-fifth. Despite variation in dates, the wishes of ringing out the old year and celebrating the new are the same for everyone.
On the "Little New Year," people worship the Kitchen God. In folklore, the Kitchen God reports on the good and evil natures of people to the Jade Emperor or 玉皇大帝 (yùhuángdàdì), and based off this the Jade Emperor rewards or punishes people accordingly. To win over the Kitchen God’s favor, people melt “Guan dong” sugar using fire and paint it on his lips so that he does not say bad things about them to the Jade Emperor. There was a saying that stated “men don’t worship the moon, women don’t worship the stove.” In line with this statement, only men worship the Kitchen God on the "Little New Year".
Customs on this day include worshipping the Kitchen God, sweeping, and making window decoration paper-cuttings. For the paper cuttings, people typically use red paper to cut out auspicious shapes like dragons and phoenixes and paste them onto windows, helping create a festive atmosphere. People also shower in order to wash away the dust and greet the New Year.
So who is the Kitchen God? In China, there are seven “daily necessities,” in Chinese referred to as 柴米油盐酱醋茶 (cháimǐyóuyán jiàng cù chá), which are firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy, vinegar and tea. Among these, the Kitchen God, or firewood, is considered the most important. Without firewood to make fire, people cannot cook, even if they have the ingredients. In ancient China it was thought that each family had a stove where the Kitchen God lived, whom no one wanted to offend
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
In China, celebrating the Spring Festival is known as “celebrating the Big New Year." Why do the Chinese celebrate the “Little New Year,” too?
Traditionally, “celebrating the Big New Year” referred to celebrating the Spring Festival, which is the most important festival with the most complex customs. In the past, people celebrated the “Little New Year” as preparation for the Big New Year. After the buying of goods and cleaning was completed, people could relax and get ready for a cheerful New Year.
What did you think of this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Does the Kitchen God exist in the legends in your country? Please leave a comment telling us at ChineseClass101.com, and I'll see you in our next lesson. Bye!