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By Jason JIANG (Lee Shau Kee Hall)

Spring Festival is approaching so let’s celebrate the Year of Tiger!

Spring Festival has been the most important day for Chinese people for over 2000 years. During Spring Festival, which usually lasts for one week, we celebrate by putting red colours around our house, setting off fireworks, and staying with our family and relatives. Spring Festival for Chinese people is just like Christmas for Westerners.

According to the legend, in ancient China, the Nián (年) was a man-eating beast from the mountains (in other versions from under the sea), which came out every 12 months somewhere close to winter to prey on humans. The people later believed that the Nian was sensitive to loud noises and the colour red, so they scared it away with explosions, fireworks and the liberal use of the colour red. These customs led to the first New Year celebrations. Guò nián (simplified Chinese: 过年; traditional Chinese: 過年), which means to celebrate the New Year, literally means the passing of the Nian.

I was born in a small town in Hunan Province, where I lived with my big family. Time flows slowly in my beautiful town surrounded by mountains. I had plenty of time to play with my cousins. For us kids, Spring Festival meant we could have new clothes, eat dumplings, get lucky money from parents and relatives and use it to buy fireworks. Spring Festival marks the happiest memory of my childhood and that of most Chinese youngsters. When I was 10, my family moved to Guangzhou. Since then my family has been back to Hunan, where most of our relatives live, only three times, because of our busy schedule or traffic jams caused by what we call the “Spring Jam”, when more than 100 million people go back to their hometown by rail or road.  

Transportation has been a problem facing Chinese people since the 1990s, when a large number of people started to immigrate from rural areas into cities. It is difficult and expensive to get a ticket during Spring Festival.

This year my family will drive to Hunan if weather permits. I cannot wait to meet my relatives and friends there. For those who will stay in the Student Residence, don’t worry. It is a time for you to find out what celebrations there are in Hong Kong and experience the local culture by celebrating Spring Festival here.