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Customs in all ages Some customs on traditional festivals within the county are mainly recorded. Since the county was originally made up of border areas of Luoshan of Henan, Huangpi of Hubei, Hong’an (formerly known as Huang’an), and Xiaogan, time and customs of some festival are different. At present, customs of such traditional festivals are mostly assimilated or forgotten, only a small part is continued up to now, and this paper will show various customs on traditional festivals within the county to readers comprehensively to preserve integrity of historic culture and traditional customs.

   

Spring Festival

It is from the first to the third day of the first lunar month, known as “Lunar New Year” and the grandest festival; as the folk adage goes, “the beggar also has three days of New Year”. During the Spring Festival, various common courtesies and taboos are fully shown. Early in the morning on the first day of the lunar year, people of all ages and box sexes wear new clothes to pay a New Year call to the elder of the same ancestor first; and then, people of the same generation drop round to congratulate based on ages. On the second day, different places are different; places such as Xincheng, Pengdian, Xiadian, Liuji, Sigu, Hekou, and Lvwang subdivided from Huangpi and Hong’an originally will go to parents’ and grandparents’ home to pay a New Year call; but in places such as Fengdian, Xuanhua and Erlang subdivided from Luoshan and Xiaogan, it is an anniversary of the death, and relatives and friends shall not pay a New Year call. On the third day, married men must go to their wife’s parents’ home to pay a New Year call, known as “pay a New Year call to the father-in-law”. It can thus be seen that order of superiors and inferiors of customs within the county is: the first is father, the second moth, and the third wife; criticism will be given if not following common customs within the three days. Thereafter, it is time for greetings between relatives, without any restrictions on customs. The custom has not changed a lot up to now.

 

Lantern Festival

It is on the fifteenth day of the first month of lunar year, also known as “Shangyuan Festival” or “Festival on the 15th day of a month”, being the biggest festival of celebration and recreation. During Lantern Festival, there is the custom of lantern show for recreation in various locations. Forms of lantern show differs: such as playing dragon lantern, lion dancing, going Cailian boating, driving bamboo hobbyhorse, capturing clam, playing butterfly, selecting flower basket, and walking on stilts, etc. Lanterns are generally hung up on the thirteenth day and put away on the day of Lantern Festival, with busy degree superior to the Spring Festival, which leads to the saying of “Lantern Festival is more important than the Spring Festival”. After the Lantern Festival, there is the saying that “Both Spring Festival and Lantern Festival are over”, which means the festive season is over and everyone should begin production and work.

 

Birthday of flowers

 It is  on the twenty-second (fifteenth in some places) day of the second month of lunar year, known as the birthday of flowers. On that day, girls are gorgeously dressed and go out to play in groups; married women also wear new clothes to visit relatives and friends or go to the temple to pay respects to Avalokitesvara and pray for children. After playing, they will pick some green vegetables by the road and take back home, known as “Green picking”, which means new progress and auspicious omen during the year. In addition, little girls will wear earrings on that day, since it is said that “Wearing earrings on the birthday of flowers on the second lunar month is not painful and ears will be not swollen”. The custom gradually disappeared after liberation and does not exist at present.  

  

Shangsi Festival
It is on the third day of the third month of lunar year. The legend goes that it is the birthday of town god, an idolatrous procession will be held to perform in temples enshrined with the town god, and ordinary people of various places will go there to pray, worship, and watch performance, which is really lively. At night, the middle age and the youth will go to high places outside in groups to watch “ghost light”. It is said that soul of the person who dies in that year will wander outside on the double third day, known as “Ghosts gather on the double third day”, and “ghost light” seen by people is soul of the dying person. The custom has been abolished as feudalistic superstition. 

  

Tomb-Sweeping Day
It is a festival to offer sacrifices to ancestors. Several days before the festival or on that day, both the poor and the rich and people of all ages will add soils to graves, burn joss sticks and papers, and set off firecrackers in their ancestral graves, and there is the saying of “Those not offering sacrifices to ancestors on Tomb-Sweeping Day will become pigs and dogs after death” within the county. However, the day before Tomb-Sweeping Day, the family will offer sacrifice to ancestors, and it develops into a day to remember revolutionary martyrs, many cadres, workers and students coming to martyrs’ parks or revolution memorial places to offer sacrifices to martyrs. 

  

Dragon Boat Festival
It is also known as Duanyang Festival, and there are folk and national Dragon Boat Festivals. The fifth day of the fifth month of lunar year is known as “national Dragon Boat festival”; the fifteenth (eighteenth in Sigudun region) day of the fifth month of lunar year is known as “folk Dragon Boat Festival”, during which all families will wrap up zongzi, leaven dough, and drink realgar wine; they also collect mugwort and plantain herb with dew, and sprinkle realgar wine to dry in the sun and store for medical use, which is said to have the function of expelling parasite and eliminating evil; some even paint realgar on the faces, arms and calves of children to avoid evil, expel parasite, and prevent illness. At present, customs of having zongzi, leavening dough and improving diets on Dragon Boat Festival are surviving, but others are all abolished.

 

Hungry Ghost Festival
It is on the fifteenth day of the seventh month of lunar year, known as “spirit festival” in the fold. Tradition has it that “the fifteenth day of the seventh month of lunar year is Zhongyuan, when Yama will open the gate of hell”. On that day, all ghosts run out of the hell to have sacrificial offerings, receive alms, and beg for ghost money in the folk. Ghosts of families go back to their home to enjoy sacrificial offerings; those homeless ghosts wander everywhere to scramble for sacrificial offerings, or scourge the folk if failing. To prevent homeless ghosts from harassing ghosts with families and the folk, there is the custom of “Open the gate for ghosts on the fifteenth day of the seventh month of lunar year and burn candles and papers to avoid disasters” within the county. People set off oil lamps or candles by the roads and rivers, and release some food, known as “lighting on”. At present, the custom has changed a lot. Only the family of the newly dead person (i.e., person dying in the year) will hold an activity to offer sacrifices on that day to remember the dead person. Other various superstitious activities have been abolished.

  

Mid-Autumn Festival
It is on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of lunar year. Since it is during the fruitful harvest season, all families are filled with joy, and family members get together to buy wine and meat, kill chicken and duck, boil glue pudding, eat mooncake, and taste melon and fruit to celebrate. The traditional festival is still taken seriously by people.

 

Double Ninth Festival
It is on the ninth day of the ninth month of lunar year. In the past, there are customs such as the whole family go mountaineering, drinking chrysanthemum wine, and eating Chongyang cake in the folk, which means to eliminate evil of the whole family in the year; on that day, Sigudun region also hold temple fair to sacrifice the Bodhisattva, known as “Empress fair”. At present, the festival has gradually disappeared.

  

The First Day of the Lunar Tenth Month
It is said to be birthday of the cattle. On that day, families with cattle will pick wild chrysanthemum to bundle up on head of cattle, known as “Wearing flowers for cattle”; they also feed cattle with white boiled milled rice, soybean, and green vegetables to express award for hardworking of cattle during the year. That day is also known as “Full labor day”, i.e., those poor people working for the rich for a long or short time will stop working and return home on that day, with many sayings about such behavior. At present, that day is not deemed to be a festival.

 

The Eighth Day of the Twelfth Lunar Month
It is said to be the day of enlightenment or becoming a monk of Buddha. It is said that before becoming a monk, the Buddha had a poor family which ran out of rice and fuel frequently. When he decided to become a monk on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, nothing was edible in his home, so he had to pick up scattered cereals at home to boil thin gruel, and became a monk after eating, thus becoming the Buddha. Later generations will have rice porridge with nuts and dried fruit on that day to remember him; temples will take nuts and fruits to cook porridge to feed the Buddha on that day. Raw materials of Laba congee are different, mainly including two categories: dried persimmon, rice, millet, barley, beans, and red dates; rice, millet, sweet potato, pumpkin, red dates, mung bean, soybean, and peanut kernel. At present, the custom has disappeared.

  

Preliminary Eve
It is on the twenty-third day of the twelfth lunar month, or the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth day, differing from place to place. It is said that officials will celebrate the festival on the twenty-third day, civilians on the twenty-fourth day, and royal relatives on the twenty-fifth day; on that day, every family will clean kitchen ware and the house, put garbage together, and set fire at dusk, known as “fumigation”, which means cleaning away the dirt and the old of the past year and ushering in the new. During the supper, vegetables such as bean curd and bean curd sheets, as well as sweet glutinous rice cake will be prepared, and joss sticks and papers are burned to offer sacrifices to the kitchen god, which means to ask them to put in good word to the Jade Emperor, hide the wrongdoing and praise good deeds after death, and pray for “auspicious omen”. On the fifteenth (thirteenth in Xuanhuadian region) day of the first lunar month next year, the same method is used to greet the returning kitchen god, known as “greeting the kitchen god”. The custom still survives in remote mountain villages.

  

New Year’s Eve
It in on the thirtieth or twenty-ninth day of the twelfth lunar month. On that day, each household will prepare fish, chicken and pork, light candle, burn incense and paper, and set off firecrackers; parents will lead children and grandchildren to worship ancestors. After sacrificing, gigantic feast will be prepared to have a family reunion dinner, also known as “New Year’s Eve family dinner”. At dusk, each household will stick door-god and spring festival scrolls on doors to dispel disasters and avoid evil spirits. At night, indoors are brightly lit, and the housewife is busy frying peanuts, melon seeds, and dried sweet potatoes to prepare food to receive guests during the Spring Festival; other people are seated around the stove until daybreak, which is said to be pernoctating. Before dawn, all families lay the console table at the gate, offer fish, chicken and pork, burn joss sticks and candle, and set off firecrackers to greet the New Year, known as “getting around”. After getting around, the head of the family will pick collect some prepared dried firewood outside the gate for luck, known as “making a fortune”.

 

Chinese New Year’s Eve
There are many taboos, mainly including four: the first is that nobody shall speak unlucky words; parents will wipe mouth of children slightly with broom after awakening early in the morning to prevent children from speaking unlucky words due to innocence, which means it not working even though children have spoken some unlucky words. The second is to close the door tightly during the New Year’s Eve family dinner to prevent outsiders from intruding. Nobody shall leave the table or open the door before finishing the dinner. The third is that borrowing things from others is not allowed before the fourth day of the first lunar month. The fourth is that garbage and dirty water at home shall not be poured out but gathering indoor after sticking on the door-god and spring festival scrolls, and may be poured out at dusk on the third day of next first lunar month, otherwise it will be impossible to make a fortune. At present, these customs still survive in the countryside.

They put garbage together, and set fire at dusk, known as “fumigation”, which means cleaning away the dirt and the old of the past year and ushering in the new. During the supper, vegetables such as bean curd and bean curd sheets, as well as sweet glutinous rice cake will be prepared, and joss sticks and papers are burned to offer sacrifices to the kitchen god, which means to ask them to put in good word to the Jade Emperor, hide the wrongdoing and praise good deeds after death, and pray for “auspicious omen”. On the fifteenth (thirteenth in Xuanhuadian region) day of the first lunar month next year, the same method is used to greet the returning kitchen god, known as “greeting the kitchen god”. The custom still survives in remote mountain villages.

 

New Year’s Eve
It is on the thirtieth or twenty-ninth day of the twelfth lunar month. On that day, each household will prepare fish, chicken and pork, light candle, burn incense and paper, and set off firecrackers; parents will lead children and grandchildren to worship ancestors. After sacrificing, gigantic feast will be prepared to have a family reunion dinner, also known as “New Year’s Eve family dinner”. At dusk, each household will stick door-god and spring festival scrolls on doors to dispel disasters and avoid evil spirits. At night, indoors are brightly lit, and the housewife is busy frying peanuts, melon seeds, and dried sweet potatoes to prepare food to receive guests during the Spring Festival; other people are seated around the stove until daybreak, which is said to be pernoctating. Before dawn, all families lay the console table at the gate, offer fish, chicken and pork, burn joss sticks and candle, and set off firecrackers to greet the New Year, known as “getting around”. After getting around, the head of the family will pick collect some prepared dried firewood outside the gate for luck, known as “making a fortune”.

 

Chinese New Year’s Eve
There are many taboos, mainly including four: the first is that nobody shall speak unlucky words; parents will wipe mouth of children slightly with broom after awakening early in the morning to prevent children from speaking unlucky words due to innocence, which means it not working even though children have spoken some unlucky words. The second is to close the door tightly during the New Year’s Eve family dinner to prevent outsiders from intruding. Nobody shall leave the table or open the door before finishing the dinner. The third is that borrowing things from others is not allowed before the fourth day of the first lunar month. The fourth is that garbage and dirty water at home shall not be poured out but gathering indoor after sticking on the door-god and spring festival scrolls, and may be poured out at dusk on the third day of next first lunar month, otherwise it will be impossible to make a fortune. At present, these customs still survive in the countryside.

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