Differences on New Year Celebrations between North and South China

Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival, is a common traditional festival for all Chinese people. In different areas and zones, people have their distinct ways to celebrate the most important festival, especially between north and south China. The differences can be discovered from different aspects, such as foods, decoration, gifts and other celebration practices.


Festival Foods - Dumplings Vs Rice Cake

Dumplings are the most famous festive food
in northern China.

The reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve is always the most significant meal throughout the entire year, so what kind of food served for the dinner matters a lot. In northern cities of China, people get used to having dumplings as the staple food. It is called Jiaozi in Chinese, which means the turn of a lunar new year. Besides, with an ingot shape, people regard it as a symbol of wealth. When making the dumplings, some will wrap coins, pearls inside. People who get the dumplings with this special stuffing will make a fortune in the coming year.

While people from southern area are accustomed to eating rice cake (Niangao in Chinese), which is made of glutinous rice flour. Niangao has an implied meaning that people get promoted to a higher position year after year. In Guangdong, Guangxi and Fujian Provinces, people have the rice cakes in their hotpot with sea food, other meat and vegetables as complementary dishes. People in Yunnan, Sichuan, Hunan and Hubei Provinces prefer to have a big feast with different kinds of delicacies served. It is a banquet with various cooking methods applied, such as frying, simmering, stewing and braising.

Festival Decorations

Pasting Paper Cuttings
Pasting Paper Cutting
Before the Chinese New Year comes, people start the cleaning up and decoration work. It is a common tradition to paste the Spring Festival couplets and "Fu" Character, but some decorations differ a bit in north and south China. In the northern part, the custom of pasting the paper cutting and Chinese New Year pictures on the windows is still retained. The red Chinese Knot is also hung for bliss. However, in the southern areas, paper cuttings and New Year pictures can be hardly viewed in people’s houses, and instead, people like to select the pot cumquat for decoration. In yellow color, it is usually an omen for wealth and harvest.

Popularity of the New Year TV Gala

According to the statistics, the viewership of the Chinese New Year TV Gala in north China is overwhelmingly higher than that in southern cities. In cities like Beijing, Shenyang and Xian, it is already an indispensible tradition to watch the gala with families, but to people from Guangdong, Hainan, Fujian and Guangxi, the gala can hardly arouse their interest. Why do people from south dislike the gala program? The gala has obvious northern style, for example, the hosts usually talk about dumplings but seldom touch upon the rice cakes; the cross-talk, sketch and opera are also apt to northern people’s habits, and some of them are even mixed with northern dialects. People from south part cannot really get the funny point of the program, so the audience rate descends gradually.

The Amounts of Red Envelope

Red envelopes are the most common and popular New Year gifts in China, which is known as Hongbao in north China but called Lishi in south, especially in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Fujian. Besides, the amount of the money stuffed in the packets differs a lot. In north China, the integral and even numbers are regarded as auspicious, and people would like to give red packets with money in amount like RMB200, RMB500 and RMB1,000. In southern cities, numbers 6, 8 and 9 are favorable. Six stands for a smooth development, eight represents making a fortune at once and nine symbolizes a long-standing relationship. Red envelopes in 88, 666, 888 and 999 are welcomed.

Worshiping the Ancestors

At the dawn of Chinese New Year’s Eve, people start to worship their ancestors, but in northern area of China, only men in the family can take part in the ceremony. Most of them are still conservative in this tradition. In southern cities, women are allowed to participate.

 Further Reading:
Chinese New Year Facts
Customs and Activities
Ten Traditions You Don't Know
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