Thursday, February 04, 2010

交春 – the start of spring

On this day at the time stated in the Almanac- 通勝 – mum would made offerings to Heaven at the altar set up at the porch. On the altar would be a piece of red paper written with the phrase -迎春接福 . Another unique preparation for this offering was that in place of the usual porcelain censer for placing the joss sticks she would use a small basket filled with rice grain and wrapped with red paper.

At the end of the prayer session, she would request a male member of the family to paste the piece of paper over the front door of the house.

As a child I was always curious as to why this one of a special offering during the Lunar New Year period. Even if it was on the first day of Lunar New Year with all the offerings and prayes, , this offering would be made, on the specified time and then up went the small red banner up the front door.

As I grew older, and able to write with Chinese brush, I took on to write the words to welcome – the starting of spring, and paste the smaller red banner over the front door.

In our dialect this offering is called – gao chun -交春 - jiao chu (pinyin) – literary the interval to Spring.

The timing for gao chun is not fixed but changes each year on the day of - 立春–li chun - one of the 24 solar terms in the Chinese lunisolar calendar – which falls on the first week of Feb each year usually on the 3rd or 4th day.

This tradition of honoring the start of spring was not practiced widely even then. I noticed that among the households in our neighborhood and within our uncles and aunt, perhaps it was only mum that observed this custom. And now, it would be harder still to find a family that would still keep this tradition in the hometown, and certainly not in Singapore.

As a child I would hear the older folks mentioned that on this day one would be able to make an egg stand up-right when placed on the table. Perhaps it was a pun on the word - 立春– li-chun . While li - 立 - meaning to stand upright , and chun - 春- meaning the spring season, is also the same pronunciation for an egg.

The day of 立春 marks the start of spring. The phrase 迎春接福 - ying chun jie fu – means to welcome Spring and the good fortune that it brings.

In the traditional agrarian Chinese society – this was an important day with all its rituals and customs. The custom of pasting - 迎春接福–above the front door to welcome spring seems to be practiced only within the Hakka’s in Southern China – as a google indicates.

Postscript -

1. Chinese Calendar : 2010. Feb. 4

今天是農曆二十四節氣之首的立春, 代表著新一年的開始. 古時候的生肖屬相都是以立春為準, 一直到1914年才被袁世凱改成目前的農曆正月初一

- Today is the day of Li-chun – in the 24 solar cycle - Agrarian Calendar . It symbolizes the start of Spring. In ancient times, the zodiac year in which one is born was counted from the day Li-chun.

It was only in 1914, when Yuan Shih-kai, changed it to start from the First Day of the First Month of the Lunar calendar

2. 交春 – Start of Spring

2010年2月4日6时48分,农历二○○九年十二月二十一日卯时立春(立春也叫打春)。 北方就是这时,南放提前10分

- the time of gao-chun is 06:48 Northern China, and in the south it is 10 minus earlier.

Namely with the time 卯 - mao

3. The 24 Solar terms -

4. Chinese Almanac –通勝 -tong sheng

5. 立春 - risshun – Japanese

Li chun – is still widely celebrated in Japan as Setsu-bun 節分– or the bean throwing festival,.