Xiao Nian, Chinese Little New Year 2024 (Kitchen God Festival)

Written by Apple Updated Jan. 18, 2023

Chinese Little New Year (Xiao Nian), also called "Little Year" or "Small Year", is essentially an early kick-off for the coming Chinese New Year (Da Nian - Big Year). 

Xiao Nian sometimes referred to as the "Kitchen God Festival" or "Stove Worshiping Festival" marks the start of preparations for the Spring Festival.

The traditions associated with Xiao Nian form a crucial part of the larger "Nian" culture. Starting celebrations early, not only enhances the festive mood but also enriches the spiritual and cultural horizons of the Chinese community.

When Is the Chinese Little New Year?

Little New Year is celebrated a week before Chinese New Year. Based on the Chinese lunar calendar, its date changes each year on the Gregorian calendar. It's on the 23rd day of the last lunar month in northern China, and in most parts of southern China, it's on the 24th. Generally speaking, it falls between January 10th and February 10th. 

In 2024, Chinese Little New Year will be celebrated on February 2nd in northern China, and February 3rd in southern China. 

Chinese Little New Year

Why Is Little New Year Celebrated?

The Little Year is a festival to pray to the Kitchen God for blessings for the New Year as well as a farewell ritual to the Kitchen God.

Legend has it that the Kitchen God is sent down to each household by the Jade Emperor to watch the behavior of the family members, then reports all he observed to the Jade Emperor (the Supreme Deity of Taoism) at the end of the year. According to this report, the Jade Emperor will decide how much good luck the family gets for the new year.

It is on the Little New Year's Day that the Kitchen God reports to the Jade Emperor.  Therefore, each household offers sacrifices to the Kitchen God so he would bring back good luck for the new year.  

Traditional Activities for Little New Year

The main Chinese Little New Year traditional activities include:

1. Offering Sacrifices to the Kitchen God

Chinese Little New Year
Sacrifices to the Kitchen God on Little Year

One of the most important traditions in the Little New Year is to honor the Kitchen God.

In Chinese culture, the Kitchen God is the protector of the family from evil spirits. Many Chinese households have a paper image of the Kitchen God hung in the house. Since the Kitchen God reports the family's activities back to the Jade Emperor on the Little New Year's Day, sacrifices are made to him in hopes of saying good things about the family. 

After the sacrifice, the paper image of the Kitchen God will be burned, and it is believed that he will go back to heaven with the smoke. On the fourth day of the first lunar month on the Chinese lunar calendar, the household will put up a new picture of the Kitchen God, indicating that the Kitchen God has returned to the family. 

2. Cleaning the Houses

Chinese Little New Year
Cleaning the house on Little Year's Day

On Little New Year's Day, Chinese people carry out a thorough cleaning of the house. 

The arrival of the Little New Year means that the Spring Festival is not far away. Chinese people would clean the house on this day to welcome the Lunar New Year. This is a long-held tradition called "sweeping away the dust", which symbolizes sweeping away bad luck and a farewell to the old year. 

3. Pasting Paper Cuts to the Window

paper cutting during little new year
Paper cutting

The Little New Year is also celebrated in preparation for the Spring Festival, and paper-cutting is one of the most popular folk activities. 

Chinese paper-cutting is a traditional part of Chinese culture, as well as one of the oldest folk arts in China, which dates back more than two thousand years. On the day of the Little New Year, Chinese people would glue up paper cuttings on windows to show happiness and celebrate festivals. The paper cuttings are usually made of red paper, as red symbolizes prosperity and good fortune in Chinese culture. 

4. Eating Zaotang Candy

Zaotang, also known as "candy for the Kitchen God", is a kind of traditional sticky candy made of maltose. Zaotang is used as a sacrifice to the Kitchen to sweeten his words to the Jade Emperor. 

In different places in China, the Zaotang has different shapes. The Zaotang in Shanghai and Jiangsu province is in the shape of an ingot. Besides, Zantang can be made into various shapes such as calabash, chicken, duck, etc.

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