Spring Festival Essay

New Year's Eve#

It is said that starting from this year, the night before the Spring Festival cannot be called New Year's Eve anymore. As for whether this is true or not, and the reasons behind it, no one seems to be able to explain clearly, and I dare not say much about it either.

Since the Eastern Han Dynasty, the night before the Spring Festival has always been called "New Year's Eve". The Book of Changes says, "A noble person removes weapons and guards against unexpected events." The character "除" in "除夕" does not mean "remove", but should be interpreted as "change" or "replace", to replace the old with the new and guard against unexpected events.

If because of a misinterpretation of the character "除", New Year's Eve can no longer be called "除夕", it would be troublesome. In the current lunar calendar, some years have thirty days in the twelfth lunar month, which can be called "年三十" (the thirtieth day of the year); but in some years, there are only twenty-nine days, so it would be awkward to call it "年廿九" (the twenty-ninth day of the year). It seems that there is no such term, and it sounds strange. Then we can only call it "大年夜" (the big New Year's Eve), which is a bit more vulgar than "除夕".

By the way, I often hear people refer to the Gregorian calendar as the "阳历" (solar calendar) and the lunar calendar as the "阴历" (lunar calendar), but this is not accurate. The Gregorian calendar is indeed a solar calendar, so it can be called a "阳历". However, the current lunar calendar is a combination of yin and yang, also known as the "太阴太阳历" (Taiyin-Taiyang calendar), which already has both yin and yang, so calling it the "阴历" is inappropriate.

According to my family's tradition, on New Year's Eve, the whole family gathers at our ancestors' house for a meal at noon, and we don't have the tradition of a big New Year's Eve dinner. My father once told me that this was a rule set by his great-grandfather's great-grandfather. As for the original intention, it is hard to say because it happened a long time ago. When I was a child, I always envied my classmates talking about their New Year's Eve dinners. Things that we can't have or haven't experienced always seem better because of our imagination. Later, my parents may have noticed my thoughts, so every year on Christmas Eve, they would take me to my favorite restaurant and give me the gifts I wanted. Except for me, my parents don't have any religious beliefs, so it's interesting that they choose to have a non-traditional New Year's Eve dinner on Christmas Eve. After leaving home, I have never been able to have dinner with my parents on Christmas Eve again, but they still go to a restaurant on Christmas Eve, just like me. The difference is that my parents will order dishes that they remember I liked, even though my taste has changed.

"The great affairs of the country are in sacrifice and warfare." For ordinary people, the great affair is "sacrifice". After lunch on New Year's Eve, when everyone is waiting for me to fold the paper money that needs to be burned, we will go together to make the offering. It seems that as long as I am at home on New Year's Eve, folding the paper money is my task. I don't mind whether or not to go together. As long as I am at home, whether it's a holiday or not, I will always find an evening to burn paper money for my ancestors by the roadside. It's good to have some thoughts, better than having none at all. Although some people consider burning paper money or making offerings as superstitious, I see it as a way of guarding and expressing gratitude for life.

For many Chinese people, their memories of the Spring Festival begin with the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. But I haven't watched the Spring Festival Gala much since junior high school. At most, I would check the time and watch a program when Feng Gong says, "I miss you all." Later, Feng Gong stopped appearing on the Spring Festival Gala, so I stopped watching it altogether.

The First Day of the Lunar New Year#

Happy New Year in the Year of Jia Chen!

Because my grandfather passed away less than three years ago, and we are still in the period of mourning, we don't need to go out and visit relatives and friends during the New Year. Actually, we don't have many relatives to visit, as they are scattered all over the place. Although I was saddened by my grandfather's passing, at least I don't have to go out and can stay at home peacefully without any moral or ethical pressure.

I have always believed that visiting relatives during the New Year is a remnant of the small-scale agricultural economy era, just like the so-called "drinking culture" that emerged because of the CCP, which should be consigned to the dustbin of history. It is essentially a voyeuristic intrusion into other people's private lives, a blatant violation of personal privacy. In the small-scale agricultural economy era, visiting relatives was often related to economic interests. But now, for most people, there is no longer any economic interaction between relatives, only the invasion of privacy remains.

I remember one time when I was at my aunt's house during the New Year. Because my cousin had suffered an injury when he was young and still had some after-effects, a relative insisted on bringing up this matter, sounding like they were expressing concern, but in reality, it made my cousin very embarrassed. When my cousin didn't say anything and walked away, that relative kept talking, and I really wanted to throw her off the balcony.

My paternal and maternal grandfathers moved to the city when they were young and didn't have ancestral land. This resulted in a situation where if we visited relatives during the New Year, it was very easy to see dozens or even dozens of people crammed into a small house, with noise and chaos everywhere, and nowhere to step. If we encountered a poorly disciplined child, they would rummage through boxes and drawers and scribble on the walls, and there was nothing we could do about it. When the parents saw it, they would pretend to be angry and scold the child a few times, but then someone would stand up and say, "They're just children."

This year's Spring Festival has a bit more festive atmosphere than before, and we can hear the sound of fireworks. In the past few years, in order to control air pollution, fireworks were not allowed in urban areas, so it was hard to feel the atmosphere of the New Year unless you went to the countryside. At most, the playlists in shopping malls and supermarkets would change to some auspicious songs, and there would be more lantern decorations.

Recent news from Europe and the United States has been hyping up China's carbon emissions. I agree with Mr. Ding Zhongli's view that carbon emissions are the right to development. China has made great efforts in energy conservation and emission reduction in recent years, and has achieved certain results. But some politicians and media are still not satisfied and keep pointing fingers at China's carbon emissions. The problem is that industrialization in Europe and the United States started more than a hundred years earlier than in China, so why isn't the carbon emissions from that period taken into account? This is a case of double standards.

The Second Day of the Lunar New Year#

I have a group of like-minded friends, spread across China and abroad, and some have become friends through frequent contact. Today, everyone in the group was chatting about a city where I spent my childhood and the games we used to play. One friend's memories were very similar to mine, so we chatted a bit more. The more we talked, the more shared memories we discovered. We laughed and said that we had found our long-lost brothers who grew up peeing and playing in the mud.

There are all kinds of connections between people, which is why they gather and separate. So I have long understood that every person who appears in my life did not appear out of thin air. Whether I like or dislike these people, I need to have a sense of gratitude in my heart. The people I like will promote my growth, and the people I dislike remind me not to become like them.

In the afternoon, my younger cousins came to have a meal with me. They told me that they didn't arrive until the evening of New Year's Eve, and when they were queuing at the high-speed rail station on the twenty-eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, they were informed that the trains were suspended, so they had to quickly refund their tickets and reschedule. The freezing rain was really heavy those days, but they didn't complain.

The news said that many party members were removing ice on the highways. This kind of news is quite funny. In the current narrative, it is only natural for party members to remove ice, so why is it being touted as a glorious deed? Whether it is plundered or ceded, the CCP and its members enjoy many rights, otherwise they wouldn't have the audacity to talk about things like "东西南北中" (East, West, South, North, and Central). Therefore, they should also bear more responsibilities. They can't just enjoy the benefits and still boss people around.

In the past, I was very interested in grand narratives, but in recent years, whenever I come across a grand narrative, I often end up with a headache. This is because grand narratives usually refer to major events or trends that can influence or shape society, culture, and history, such as the rise and fall of nations, social changes, and ideological struggles. These narratives often have strong guidance and universality, and can to some extent define the characteristics and values of an era. For individuals, grand narratives can be a source of identity and values, but they also impose constraints on individuals' actions and choices. Look at our ancestors, whether they were engaged in farming or nomadic lifestyles, they were always following the water and grass. They would live wherever they could grow rice or wheat, and wherever the resources were abundant. For every living individual, even the grandest narrative is not as important as having food to eat today. Slogans are nothing more than who can shout them better and in a higher pitch. But slogans cannot be eaten. If anyone doesn't believe it, they can try going without food for three days and see if they can still shout beautiful slogans.

My younger cousins thought for a long time and didn't know what entertainment activities to do. After thinking about it, they booked a chess and card room to play Mahjong. None of them knew how to play well, so I became the teacher and taught them Sichuan Mahjong. When I was studying abroad, there weren't many entertainment activities either. Chinese students would always think of going to the casino to play blackjack, slot machines, or Russian roulette when they got together. Then someone said, "Why let the casino make money? It's better to play Mahjong." Surprisingly, everyone agreed. Since then, playing Mahjong has become a must-do activity during holidays. Sichuan Mahjong is simple to learn and efficient, so it naturally became everyone's first choice.

Nowadays, the Spring Festival is becoming less and less meaningful. Squares, parks, amusement parks, and arcades are all crowded with people. On the other hand, activities like Mahjong and poker are the best ways to pass the time and are more peaceful. Playing cards while gossiping is quite fun.

The Third Day of the Lunar New Year#

I stayed in bed all day today because I stayed up late playing yesterday. I don't know what to write about.

𝕏 There is a Mr. Huang who is in the late stage of cancer, and many people have advised him to believe in religion. But Mr. Huang has his own philosophy:

I hereby declare that I respect all religious beliefs, but I do not believe in any religion. My three children are Christians, especially my eldest son, who is tired of preaching to me. He has given me four or five Bibles, but I haven't read a single page. I don't believe in Buddhism, Taoism, or any other practices. I have been like this since I was young. I only believe in not doing to others what I don't want them to do to me, not harming others. So please don't try to persuade me to believe in the Lord or anything like that. I believe that all beings have their own destiny, and I go along with it, letting nature take its course.

What a kind-hearted old man. There were many blessings in response to his comment. Among them, Mr. Wang's comment caused a lot of resentment, but I won't post it here.

I believe that Mr. Wang's comment, although well-intentioned and kind-hearted, lacked consideration and left a bad impression. Intellectuals, especially those who have a certain understanding of both Eastern and Western cultures, often inadvertently reveal their "arrogance". Overcoming this attachment to the self and the resulting arrogance is not easy and requires long-term cultivation.

In the theory of Tiantai Buddhism, there is the concept of "secret" and "indeterminate". "Indeterminate" refers to the Buddha teaching in different ways according to the roots and conditions of sentient beings, so that they can receive different teachings according to their own roots and understanding. "Secret" refers to the fact that because each person hears the Dharma differently based on their roots and conditions, these differences are not known to others. Language and words have their limitations because each person's understanding is different. Different people can have completely different interpretations of the same passage of text. Therefore, whether it is writing or speaking, no matter how sincere the intention, one needs to consider whether their words will "obstruct the path".

The Fourth Day of the Lunar New Year#

Today is another beautiful day. The weather has been sunny during the Spring Festival, and if you stand under the sun, it doesn't feel cold, but rather has a warm feeling of spring. There is a saying among the people of Chaoshan: "On the fifth day of the fifth month and the ninth month, look at the willows along the river." After today, it will be "the opening of the river" on the seventh day of the ninth month.

However, the climate change has long ceased to match the folk sayings, but fortunately, "the heavens have their regular patterns," and the general trend has not changed.

The traditional festivals of the Chaoshan people are still quite ceremonial. The C family went to pay respects again today. I thought for a long time and couldn't remember which deity we were supposed to pay respects to today. C looked at me with disdain and said that we were supposed to pay respects to the Kitchen God. Then I suddenly realized that I had forgotten that we also need to welcome the Kitchen God.

China's traditional folk customs are very interesting. The worship of the Kitchen God originated from the ancient tradition of worshiping fire by our ancestors. It has been passed down from generation to generation, mixed with various legends, and what seems like a simple act of worship at first glance actually reflects people's longing for a better life.

The common people are very simple. As long as they have food and drink, a place to shelter from the wind and rain, and a way to make a living, they are satisfied. The land of China has never lacked suffering, nor has it lacked people who persevere in the face of suffering. In fact, life is very simple, but our desires expand as wealth increases or society progresses. In his poem, Kahlil Gibran wrote:

We already walked too far, down to we had forgotten why embarked.

It is rare to be able to adhere to the original intention on the path of continuous progress. It seems that on the road of life, the more we pursue, the more we lose. The pursuit of material wealth and power often leads to the loss of spiritual wealth and inner peace.

The Fifth Day of the Lunar New Year#

The fifth day of the Lunar New Year is known as "破五" (Breaking the Fifth). In ancient times, merchants would welcome the God of Wealth early in the morning on the fifth day and then tidy up their shops to prepare for the opening of business the next day. As for why this tradition exists, I haven't researched it. I've only heard from my elders that the reason the fifth day of the Lunar New Year is called "破五" is because there are various rules and taboos from New Year's Eve to the fourth day of the Lunar New Year, and they are all lifted on the fifth day.

After I started working, whenever I went home for the New Year, I would leave after spending the fifth day at home. This year is a bit rare, as I don't have any specific plans after the New Year, so I decided to stay for a few more days.

In the past few years, my father hasn't set off firecrackers on the morning of the fifth day because it was not allowed in the urban area. This year, he can set them off, but he didn't buy any.

In China, there are many gods of wealth. Perhaps influenced by the theory of the five elements, there are five gods of wealth: the god of literary wealth is Qingdi, the god of martial wealth is Zhaogongming, the god of righteous wealth is Guanyu, the god of rich wealth is Shen Wansan, and the god of windfall wealth is Sufulu. In addition, there are gods of wealth based on directions: Wang Hai (center), Bi Gan (east), Fan Li (south), Guan Gong (west), Zhaogongming (north), Duanmu Ci (southwest), Li Guizu (northeast), Guan Zhong (southeast), and Bai Gui (northwest).

In Taoism, there are generally four gods of wealth, divided into literary and martial categories. The two gods of literary wealth are Bi Gan and Fan Li, and the two gods of martial wealth are Zhaogongming and Guan Gong.

After Buddhism merged deeply with traditional Chinese customs and folk beliefs during the Sui and Tang Dynasties, beliefs about gods of wealth also emerged in Buddhism, mostly based on associations made after finding some records in Buddhist scriptures. Common ones include the Medicine Buddha, Maitreya Bodhisattva, and Mahakala Bodhisattva.

I feel a special affinity when I see the Great Black Heaven Bodhisattva. Whenever I see a shrine dedicated to him, I always pay my respects and inquire about his well-being. Although Buddhism has always emphasized the emptiness of the four elements and the law of causality, I, as an ordinary person, don't think it's a big deal to pay respects to the gods of wealth. Haha, maybe I've become obsessed with the idea of getting rich.

These are my reflections on the Spring Festival. I wish our motherland prosperity and well-being, and I wish everyone good health and happiness.

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