Minority Groups’ Customs for Chinese New Year

China is a multi-ethnic country, and different ethnic minority groups have different customs for Chinese New Year. The following is a detailed introduction to some minority nationalities’ typical ways to celebrate Spring Festival.

Zhuang Ethnic Minority

The Zhuang ethnic group  mainly live in the provinces of Guangxi, Yunnan, Guangdong, Hunan, Guizhou and Sichuan, of which Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region has the largest population of Zhuang people.

The Spring Festival of the Zhuang nationality lasts three days, from the last day of the old lunar year until the 2nd day of the new lunar year, according to the local calendar.

 

Interesting facts about New Year’s Eve:

  • Zhuang people will prepare a lot of rice for the coming few days, called “ya nian fan (压年饭)”, which symbolizes wealth.
  • People make zongzi (粽子, a kind of pyramid-shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice, wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves) to worship their ancestors, but will not eat them until the Lantern Festival.

Yao Ethnic Minority

The Yao people mainly live in the Guanxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the provinces of Hunan, Yunnan, Guangdong and Guizhou in China.

  • During the Spring Festival, Yao people hold a mass rally and watch the unique “farm play”, namely, one man is dressed up as an ox, one man plays the part of a farmer following the plough, and one man plays as a hoeing farmer; the three people singing and dancing together to celebrate a bumper harvest.
  • The single young men and women are dressed in Yao clothes and gather on the meadow around the village, playing lusheng (芦笙, a reed-pipe wind instrument) and yueqin (月琴, a four-stringed plucked instrument), and singing folk songs, to look for their true love.

Other entertainment full of Yao features: playing bronze drums, shooting crossbow, hunting, throwing the embroidered ball.

Miao Ethnic Minority

The Miao people inhabit a wide area of land in south-central China, but over half of the Miao in China reside in rural and urban environment across the prefectures and counties of Guizhou.

Miao people call the general Spring Festival “Han New Year Festival” to differentiate from the Miao New Year Festival. The tenth lunar month is the beginning of a new year, during which Miao people celebrate the Miao New Year Festival. However, the exact date varies each year and is only disclosed one or two months in advance. Regular updates can be found on our website as the festival approaches.

  • The celebration of the Miao New Year in Leishan, Guizhou Province is the grandest among Miao festivities.
  • During the event tourists can enjoy watching enchanting Miao customs come alive through various kinds of ethnic activities, which usually last 9 days.

Miao customs include the festival parade - Miao girls and women in traditional Miao dress, the traditional music of the lusheng (a kind of musical instrument made of bamboo) - bullfights, horseracing and, of course, lots of singing and dancing.

Tibetan Ethnic Minority

The Tibetan ethnic minority in China mainly lives in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Tibetan people celebrate New Year's Day by the Tibetan calendar, which is close to the Han calendar. Tibetan New Year generally comes within a few days after the regular lunar New Year and lasts about 3 to 5 days.

  • A few days before the New Year: men’s heads are shaved, women’s hair washed and braided.
  • 28th of the Lunar 12th Month: cleaning houses from all sides
  • 29th of the 12th Month (New Year’s Eve):
  • The First Day of the New Year: placing sacrificial food items in the Buddha niche, such as young seedlings, fried dough, the five cereals, hoping to get longevity and a good harvest in the new year
  • The Second Day of the New Year: offering New Year greetings and presenting hada

During the Tibetan New Year, on a square or spacious grassland, people light bonfires, gather in a circle, sing and dance with traditional music all night long.

Other activities: civil wrestling, tug of war, horse racing, archery.

Mongolian Ethnic Minority

The Mongolian ethnic minority mostly lives in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Mongolians always advocate the color white, so the first lunar month is called “White Month”, and thus Chinese New Year is called “White Festival”.

  • From 23rd of the lunar 12th month: in addition to cleaning, showering and decorating the Mongolian ger, Mongols will put on new traditional clothes, dress horses with red tassels and new saddles, and present a whole ox or sheep with hada to close relatives and friends.
  • On Chinese New Year’s Eve: all family members gather, burning incense and worshipping Buddha, and eating hand-held meat to show family reunion.
  • The First Day of the New Year:

1. Mongolian people toast to elders and peers, present hada to each other and offer New Year greetings.
2. All family members kowtow towards sunrise and throw sacrificial offerings on the bonefires, to pray for favorable weather for the crops in the new year.

During the whole festival, which usually lasts 15 days or even the whole lunar month, young Mongolians enjoy themselves through horse racing on the grasslands and having great bonfire parties at night.

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