A few more days and it will be Spring Festival (1). For Chinese, Spring Festival is the most important holiday, occurring each year on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar and because of this it is also called ‘danian chuyi’ (first day of a lunar year). The eve of the Spring Festival (2) is therefore also the evening of the last day of the twelfth month and we call this ‘chuxi’ (Lunar New Year’s Eve). According to tradition Chinese families organise a family get together on ‘chuxi’ and have a reunion dinner, watch ‘chunwan’ (spring evening) and when it’s nearly twelve o’clock they set off firecrackers and count down welcoming in the new year.
‘Chunwan’, basically refers to the CCTV New Year’s Gala. (3) CCTV is China’s national television channel and it is also China’s largest television channel. Beginning in 1983, CCTV has telecast the New Year’s Gala each year on CNY eve. The program includes song and dance, sketches, magic, acrobatics and the like. Every year currently popular movie stars take part and perform. The Gala starts at eight p.m. and goes through till about twelve midnight. When it’s just about twelve the comperes will countdown with the public to enter into the new year. So as far as Chinese are concerned the new year hasn’t officially begun until twelve o’clock on New Year’s Eve has passed.
Now, to watch the New Year’s Gala has become a tradition for Chinese on CNY eve and the new year’s gala as a topic of conversation will quickly attract people’s attention. Especially for Chinese living outside of China, watching the Gala with friends and relatives is a part of bringing in the New Year and is also an important means of understanding modern Chinese society. Each year the items on the Gala program give rise to some new items of vocabulary and people will discuss the program of the Gala on all sorts of social media platforms. So the CCTV Gala is not only an important part of Chinese New Year but also to varying degrees exerts an influence on modern Chinese culture.
In the past few years in the wake of the speedy development of internet technology one can watch more and more outstanding international and domestic programs on the net so demands for the Gala are higher and higher. Many people have started to grumble that the line-up isn’t marvelous enough (4), the format isn’t innovative enough and this has put a lot of pressure on the produces of the CCTV Gala. I think that the most important aspect of celebrating CNY is to be together with family. In order to present the viewers of China with a feast of culture, over ten thousand people, by keeping working, sacrifice the chance to be with their families, so the viewing public should not be so picky.
If you want to understand more about the Gala you can turn your attention to the series of programs on YouTube, Google+, Twitter or Instagram. Of course we hope even more that you can, at Peking time on the 18th of February, i.e. on CNY’s eve at eight o’clock, watch the 2015 CCTV CNY Gala and share with us your favourite parts of the show.
In order to help everyone learn Chinese even better, starting from episode 125, every essay will have a package rich in content, containing the essay in pinyin, explanations of difficult vocabulary and example sentences, and also some exercise questions which togeher with the essay, will make a complete set. Everyone is welcome to log into Slow Chinese and check it out. Finally the whole crew of Slow Chinese wishes everyone a happy Chinese New Year.
(1) Spring Festival is a slightly awkward translation as it is really only known as Chinese New Year or the lunar new year in English. But the term Spring Festival will probably become more and more used in the West.
(2) I think because Spring Festival has yet to become a common term it’s hard to know whether to always omit the ‘the’.
(3) The dictionary gives these as individual words – Spring Autumn Festival + to have a get-together — evening party. In reality this refers to the CCTV program telecast each year on CNY eve.
(4) ‘Isn’t marvelous enough’ .Not really said in English but grammatically it seems correct so I’ve left it.
by Robert Budzul