Little New Year (Chinese: Xiaonian), usually a week before the lunar New Year, falls on Feb 1 this year. It is also known as the Festival of the Kitchen God, the deity who oversees the moral character of each household.
Here are six things you should know about the Little New Year, another sign of the start of spring.
1. Offer sacrifices to Kitchen God
In one of the most distinctive traditions of the Little New Year is the burning of a paper image of the Kitchen God, dispatching the god's spirit to Heaven to report on the family's conduct over the past year. The Kitchen God is then welcomed back by to the home through the pasting of a new paper image of him beside the stove. From this vantage point, the Kitchen God will oversee and protect the household for another year.
Most of the offerings are sweets of various varieties. It is thought that this will seal the Kitchen God's mouth and encourage him to only say good things about the family when he ascends to heaven to make his report.
2. House cleaning
Between Laba Festival, on the eighth day of the last lunar month, and Little New Year, on the twenty-third day, families throughout China undertake a thorough house cleaning, sweeping out the old in preparation for the New Year
According to Chinese folk beliefs, during the last month of the year ghosts and deities must choose either to return to Heaven or to stay on Earth. It is believed that in order to ensure the ghosts and deities' timely departure people must thoroughly clean both their persons and their dwellings, down to every last drawer and cupboard.
3. Eat Guandong candy
Guandong candy, a sticky treat made out of glutinous millet and sprouted wheat, is a traditional snack that Chinese people eat on the Festival of the Kitchen God.
4. Paste paper-cuts to windows
In the Little New Year, old couplets and paper-cuts from the previous Spring Festival are taken down, and new window decorations, New Year's posters, and auspicious decorations are pasted up.
5. Bath and hair-cut
As the old Chinese saying goes, whether they're rich or poor, people often have a haircut before the Spring Festival. The activity of taking bath and haircut is often taken on the Little New Year.
6. Preparations for Spring Festival
People start to stock up necessary provisions for the Spring Festival since the Little New Year. Everything needed to make offerings to the ancestors, entertain guests, and feed the family over the long holiday must be purchased in advance.