How do ethnic minorities in Guizhou celebrate the Spring Festival

Culture

How do ethnic minorities in Guizhou celebrate the Spring Festival

by Live in Guizhou


PUBLISHED Nov 11, 2021 • 4MIN READ

The Guest New Year 

The Lunar New Year is almost here, A’Gui can’t wait to show you some of the ways the local Miao celebrate.

The Miao have their own calendar, which starts and ends in the fall. Most Miao however, also celebrate the Lunar New Year (a festival celebrated by the Han, most commonly known as the Chinese New Year), calling it “The Guest New Year”.

During the Guest New Year, it is traditional for a family to celebrate by making glutinous rice balls (ironically named, this gluten-free treat got its name from its short grain, giving it a sticky texture), with whole lamb or pork roast, paired with locally distilled alcohol from sorghum and rice. Food prepared for the occasion all comes from the current year’s harvest, which serves as a way for the locals to wish for a better new year.

In towns and villages, it is also traditional for everyone to sing the Spring Song in the local language, the lyrics, roughly translated, include joy for the coming of spring, the longing for a longer spring, and the sadness of the passing of spring.

Tong’s Greeting Festival

The Tong Community celebrates the Lunar New Year in their own special way. Also called the “Tong’s Greeting Festival” or the“Lusheng Festival”, the celebration centers on the “Lusheng”, a flute-like local instrument. During the festival, neighboring villages get together on a village square, and hold a song&dance-off competition. The villagers are both the performers and audiences, and all are welcome to join in the festivities.

Duan Festival  

For the Shui ethnicity, the Duan Festival is how they celebrate their new year. Traditionally, the festival is held in autumn, in time for the harvest that would mark the new year. The festival is a chance to celebrate achievements of the past while welcoming the future. Activities include the honoring of one’s ancestors through harvest offerings, as well as the gathering between family and friends. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the culmination of the joy of the harvest and the expectation of uniting with friends both and new. This is a great chance for hardworking locals to relax and share in each other’s company before another fulfilling new year.

Ancestor worship

Ancestor worship features prominently during the Duan Festival. A typical family will set a table in the middle of their house, and display dishes such as fish and leek, boiled tofu, glutinous rice, and fruits as offerings to their ancestor. After the table has been set, everyone will gather and the eldest member of the family will cite praise to their ancestors, followed by everyone raising their glass to the toast of “Xiu Xiu Xiu” (drink up) in honor of their roots.

Horse racing 

Horse racing is a much-anticipated event for the local community. The race may be different from elsewhere in the world. For one, there are no set race tracks, and contestants are free to touch each other, for another, only the reins are allowed, saddles and stirrups are not a part of the race. Jockeys (mainly the horse’s owners) ride barebacked to the finish line, and the winner’s horse will be given a red ribbon and plenty of bragging rights.

The Spring Festival of  Tujia

For the Tujia, their tradition is to celebrate the New Year one day in advance. The reason for this tradition differs between accounts. According to one legend, back when the Tujia was at war with neighboring tribes, they received news that they might be attacked on New Years Day. This brought the Tujia a dilemma, if they prepare to chase away their attackers, they might miss the New Year celebration, which might bring bad luck next year. And so, the elders decided to celebrate one day in advance, so that everyone will be in good spirits and well-rested to defend themselves the next day. And so the tradition remained. During the “Fast Year”, as they call it, families gather around the table to celebrate unity with good food and better wine.

The Spring Festival of Buyi

The Spring Festival is the most important holiday for the Buyei. The holiday is usually prepared by slaughtering livestock, cooking seasonal treats (such as sticky rice cakes, smoked pork, and sausages), and brewing baked-rice wine. The new year is seen as a day for family reunion, so from its eve to new year day, the Buyei stay at their own homes, and avoid visiting others–a custom that is otherwise common in other Chinese communities. The entire family would gather around a charcoal fire, and chat throughout the night. The festival dinner starts with an offering to one’s ancestors as well as nature, followed by members exchanging blessings, and dinning together. It is only until the dawn of the second day of the new year, do people start visiting others.

The Spring Festival of Yi

The Yi also have their own calendar, and depending on the specific community, may choose to celebrate their New Year, or observe the Spring Festival. Similar to western cultures, the Yi also have a holiday cedar tradition. Pines are believed to be able to ward off bad luck, and so during the celebration, people would plant cones and spread pine needles in front of their house. Livestock are normally slaughtered during this time, and made into spiced-meat as a treat for visitors such as family or friends, who are expected to visit each other during the holiday season. At the dawn of the New Year, the Yi would carry water home, and compare the weight of the freshly carried water with that of water left from the previous year, and if the fresh water is heavier, it would symbolize bountiful rain in the coming year.