Today is xiaonian 小年, or minor Chinese New Year, a celebration which take place a week before the main festival, at least in southern China! The north of China celebrates xiaonian one day earlier to mark the twenty-third day of the twelfth lunar month. This tradition dates back to the Qing dynasty when emperors prayed to the Kitchen God a day in advance. The north of China followed their pattern, while southern areas stuck to celebrating on the twenty-fourth day.
On xiaonian, people worship and thank the God of the Kitchen (祭灶 jì zào). It is traditional to burn paper images of the Kitchen God and present him with sweet offerings so that he protects the household during the coming year.
Other common activities on xiaonian include cleaning the house to remove bad luck and getting ready for Chinese New Year by putting up ‘fu’ stickers, couplets and other decorations. In order to prepare for the new year, people also buy new clothes and have a haircut.
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