I.New Year's Greetings
The first day of the first lunar month is the Spring Festival. It was called "Guo Nian", and is still the most important traditional festival. The New Year's Eve, the day before the Spring Festival, is commonly known as "Da Nian Ye" when families get together to eat "New Year's Eve Dinner". New wives should dress nice and offer shoes to the elder, which is called "Ci Sui". The elder give money to the new wives and children, which is called "Red Pocket Money (Ya Sui Qian)." On the evening, there are activities such as "wishing for good luck" and "celebrating Kitchen God". From the morning of the first day, people open the door to set off firecrackers, burn incense and worship the gods ("Jie Tian"), then worship the ancestors, and at last worship the parents. The elder and the young wait for their own turns. Then people will meet their relatives and friends and celebrate the New Year. The whole process is collectively known as "Bai Nian." In modern times, these procedures have been gradually simplified and Kowtow has been gotten rid of. On the first day, people will not meet guests but will go out for "Happiness God". From the second day till the night of the 15th of the first lunar month, people can meet relatives and friends.
II. Crossing the Bridge on the Lantern Festival
The fifteenth day of the first lunar month is the Lantern Festival, commonly known as "the first half of the first month of the lunar year (Zheng Yue Ban)." Wuzhen people have the custom of crossing the bridges. They go across the bridge with friends in the evening. People should go across at least ten bridges and avoid going back to the bridge, so there must be a plan in mind. This custom starts from a popular disaster avoidance and relief activity that is conducted by women in the old days, which is called “walking ten bridges (Zou Shi Qiao)” or “getting rid of all diseases (Qu Bai Bing)”. At that time, women would dress up and go out together with jars of medicine, and threw the jars into the river when crossing the bridges. They believed that this method would ensure no diseases in a new year. This activity of throwing jars has disappeared and evolved into a simple festival activity for amusement and blessing nowadays. On the evening of the Lantern Festival, people, no matter young or old, will gather together with lanterns, walk along the river and cross the bridge. It looks spectacular at a distant position.
There are no high hills in Wuzhen. People resort to crossing the bridges instead of climbing the mountain, so as to take exercises and eliminate diseases. Especially in the West Scenic Zone there is one bridge within another with high arches and many steps. Walking on these two high bridges in the Lantern Festival is really enjoyable.
III. Go hiking on the Qingming Festival
Qingming is one of the twenty-four solar terms. After the Tang Dynasty, it was combined with the Cold Food Festival. People worship the ancestors, sweep the tombs, and enjoy the spring. The whole China shares similar traditions, but Wuzhen has many customs related to sericulture. On the eve of the "Qingming night", people make sweet green rice balls, rice dumplings, and set sacred "white tiger". They draw the bows and arrows with lime on the doors to pray for good luck in silkworm cultivation, and cook snails. They will pick up snail meat with the needles, known as "Tiao Qing." From the Qingming Day, the silkworm farmers from the neighborhood go to Pujing Temple to burn incense and pray for silkworms. This is called "Incense Market" At that time, the merchants gather together, and the tourists are everywhere, with the sales stalls on the ground and the performance sites placed closely side by side. People will ride white boats in the river port, practice boxing and race boats for showing courage. The market will last for more than half a month, and has become the carnival of the silkworm farmers in the water town.
IV. Weighing on Summer Begins.
Summer Begins is also one of the twenty-four solar terms. On that day, people eat broad beans, salted eggs, green plums, and cherries, calling "Chang Xin". The farmers use malt and burclover to make "Summer Begins cakes", and also send them to the relatives and friends as gifts. Children get together to take bamboo tube, pick up beans, ask for salted meat, pick up wild wood, and collect rice from the neighborhood Then they will set up a stone stove to cook "wild fire meal" in the outdoor. It is said that eating this meal will make the children have no summer diseases. Weighing at this period of time is most popular in the south of the Yangtze River. It was said that in the three kingdoms period, A Dou, the son of Liu Bei, was taken to Jiangdong in the summer and weighed before and carefully raised by Mrs. Sun. Afterwards, she weighed him at the beginning of every summer and then wrote a letter to Zhuge Liang to show her careness. After the story is known by folk people, weighing on Summer Begins gradually becomes a custom.
V. Eating Rice Dumplings on the Dragon Boat Festival
The fifth day of the fifth lunar month is the Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the "Tianzhong Festival". People make rice dumplings and give them to friends and relatives as presents on that day. According to the legend, this custom originates from commemorating Qu Yuan. The ancients considered "Double Five Day" as an "inauspicious day" when "poisonous gas and ghosts are everywhere". Therefore, people hang the picture of Zhong Kui, paste magical papers of Taoist Master and sling mugwort, calamus, peach twigs, garlic before the doors to avoid evil spirits. They eat yellow croaker, drink realgar wine, and even eat snakeworm for combating poison with poison. Children wear tiger-shaped clothes, and women make a water bag with fabrics to store realgar wine and carry it in person to show strength. At noon, people use the cedar tree, radix angelicae, turtle shell, and rue to "smoke out mosquitoes". The edges and corners of the wall are sprayed with realgar wine and sprinkled with lime water to repel insects. All of these methods can dispel disasters.
VI. Dragon Separating Day
The 25th day of the fifth lunar month is the "Dragon Separating Day", also known as the "Dragon Separating Festival". It was said that the dragon kings in charge of the rain went to their own administrative areas to distribute rain on that day. Therefore, people called it "Fen Long". At that day, the “Water Dragon” Club, a public welfare fire-fighting organization, will hold regular fire-fighting drills, and then the various fire hoses will assemble together. All the fire-fighting appliances are gathered in the middle of the open area and river bank in the town. Various colors of paint may be put in the fire hoses and buckets in advance. Once an order is sent, all the hoses are simultaneously targeted to the sky for spraying, showing a spectacular scene. People of all ages and both sexes gather together and put on steam. The hose from which the water is spraying out fast and far will be the winner.
VII. Basking for Killing Insects on Heaven Gift Day
The sixth day of June in the lunar calendar is within the hottest period of the summer. There is a proverb in Wuzhen saying that "On June 6th in the lunar calendar, duck eggs are cooked in the sun". It is indeed a good time to get things exposed to the sun for removing insects and mould. It was named "the day of drying" in the Song Dynasty. Its origin was from a carefully fabricated dream story by Zhao Huan, the Zhenzong Emperor of the Song Dynasty. The later generations thought it was boring and then moved forward the traditional "day of exposing books to the sun" on the seventh day of lunar July. The scholars' books, monks' Buddhist scriptures, and ordinary people's clothes are all subject to the sunlight on the day. There is also the custom of taking cats and dogs to bathe in the river. It was said that this is conducive to avoiding lice infestation. The custom that people bathe their children in hot water, women wash their hair on that day and families eat wonton may be derived from mixed bathing.
VIII. Floating Lanterns on the Hungry Ghost Festival
The fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month is the Hungry Ghost Festival, commonly known as the "Mid-July Days". On that day, the Taoist temples pray for blessings through Taoist rites, the Buddhist temples hold the “Ullambana Day" and every family will worship their ancestors, so it is also called the "ghost festival". After the Southern Song Dynasty, the custom of putting lanterns in the river on that evening became popular. The various flower lanterns are made into different shapes of boat with bamboo strip, paper, with candles in the middle and wooden boards underpinned. They can be lighted with a little oil of lanterns. In the evening, people head for the water edge or take a boat to put the lanterns on the river. The strips of flickering lanterns show a wonderful landscape. The Buddhists call them "merciful divine intervention," the Taoists called them "illuminating the underworld" and "guiding the way to the underworld" and the common people just regard them as entertainment.
IX. Enjoying the Moon on the Mid-Autumn Festival
On the 15th day of the eighth lunar month is the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival when is just the "half of the three autumns". On that day, the moon is the most round and brightest. The ancients regarded the round moon to symbolize the reunion of their loved ones, the day is also called the "Reunion Festival". On that evening, the families have the reunion dinner together, the relatives and friends exchange gifts, and the moon cakes are the most important. With the moon in the sky, people begin to set up tables with some offerings on it in the courtyard. There are moon cakes, seasonal fruits and vegetables such as melons, Chinese eddo, water chestnuts, lotus roots, and edamame, etc. Most of people burn the incense and put it on the table, and they glue cardboard, put on all kinds of flags, and decorate with the story of the moon palace for later incineration in the outdoor. This is to wish for a good harvest.
X. Climbing on the Double Nine Festival
The 9th day of September in lunar calendar is the Double Ninth Festival, also known as the "Chongyang Festival", "The Cilmbing Festival" or "Chrysanthemum Festival". The custom of climbing with dogwood on The Double Ninth Festival has a long history. According to legend, it originated from the story of “Huanjing Refuge”. In the Eastern Han Dynasty, the southern Fujianese people followed the teacher's order. On the 9th of September in lunar calendar, the whole family climbed up the mountain with dogwood to get rid of the disaster. The descendants followed and became a custom. In the Tang Dynasty, it was evolved into a traditional amusement program. It seems to protect the people from illness and cold. In Wuzhen, there is no mountain in the vicinity, so climbing mountains is replaced by climbing the tower. At that day, “Chongyang cake” will show up in the market. The cake is made of red beans and glutinous rice, with small flags inserted. People means to eat the cake instead of climbing, and use the flags to replace the dogwood.
XI. Ancestor Worship on the Winter Solstice
The winter solstice is also one of the twenty-four solar terms. It is a major festival in traditional customs, also known as the "Winter Festival" or “The Little Lunar New Year”. Before the festival, the families grind flour and rub it into the "Winter Festival rice balls”, prepare wine and cook dishes, and set up sacrificial rites for ancestors, showing great solemnity. The folks say that the winter solstice is as grand as the New Year. There are also grave-sweepers in the winter solstice. 81 days from the winter solstice are divided into nine parts, each of 9 days, which are the coldest period of winter. The "Double-Nine Diagram" was said to originate from the Ming Dynasty. The picture depicts a plum branch with 81 petals. One petal is dyed on the day of the winter solstice according to the formula, and the whole counting is done in the spring. The purpose is to urge people not to forget farming in the leisure activity for passing winter.
XII. "Zhixiaogeng" in the 12th Month of Lunar Year
December of the lunar calendar is commonly known as the " the twelfth month of the lunar year". In the past, there was the custom of ("Zhixiaogeng"). When entering December, the watchman wandered in streets to beat gongs and bangs at dusk every day. They walked along the street and sometimes shouted, “Cold outside, and be careful with candles. Close the doors, and check the firewood room..." This scene was a special event in this month which would last till the New Year’s Eve. It's cold in winter, and dry outside. And people use fire frequently. There are many wooden houses in the town. Once a fire breaks out, it will be terrible. At that time, there were more than 10 people to be the watchman in the town. Every dusk they wandered in every street, which helped to remind people to pay attention to safety. Up to now, the old watchmen are still on duty in West Street, which has become unique scenery.Keyword: Customs