Spring Festival is the most important holiday for Chinese people. Excitement and happiness are palpable this time of the year, and they reach the peak on lunar new year's eve.
Though the 15-day period, which starts with the first day of the lunar new year and ends on the 15th day (known as Lantern Festival), is relatively long, it is the busiest time of the year for Chinese people. The arrangements they have to make for family reunions, buying necessities and preparing food keeps them busy throughout the holiday. Many of them travel back home and meet friends over dinner and drinks. The celebrations include decorating the house and setting off fireworks.
But we are talking about a tradition that seems to be fading.
Spring Festival, as it is celebrated today, has undergone many changes, thanks to the country's economic development and globalization.
Yet no Spring Festival is complete without food. People could not get good food whenever they desired in earlier times, something that does not apply to society today. More often than not, people faced the risk of famine. The best time for people to celebrate was when food was available in plenty, and that was possible in spring, or the beginning of the lunar new year. That was the main reason why Spring Festival acquired such great importance among Chinese people.
But three decades of economic growth has ensured that people in China, except for those who are still poor, can enjoy a good meal whenever they want. Such has been the change in people's fortune that some have to be treated for obesity and other health problems associated with excessive eating.
In the past, celebrations were limited to events like song-and-dance duets in North China, dragon/lion dances in South China and fireworks, which required the joint efforts of the entire community. But economic development and urbanization seems to have weakened the social links among people. Many, especially those living in cities, are not interested in celebrating the festival with people they hardly know.
Many customs associated with Spring Festival have changed, too. In the past, people used to visit relatives and friends with gifts and lots of good wishes. Today, many people, especially the youth, use their cell phones or the Internet to send their good wishes and even "gifts" to their relatives and friends. Some may say this a sign that people have become less caring about their near and dear ones, but we should see this development as a time- and energy-saving exercise granted by the information age.
In recent times, many people have started praying for a career promotion or more money instead of invoking God or the Buddha for a healthy and long life and the welfare of their family. But the number of such people is decreasing now, which shows that people are becoming more reasonable.