Among so many traditional festivals in China, Spring Festival is the most ceremonious. However in West Guangdong, especially in Maoming and Zhanjiang, one festival is more ceremonious than Spring Festival, that is Nian Li. For local people, they might not come back home for family reunion during Spring Festival, but they will definitely return for Nian Li.
Lion dance is performed to celebrate Nian Li in Maoming. [Photo provided to Newsgd.com]
What is Nian Li?
Nian means a year in Chinese, while Li means a routine. The combination of these two words means a routine of a year. Nian Li is more like a combined celebration of Spring Festival, Lantern Festival, temple fair and other important commemorations related to ancestors or gods.
Nian Li is held in different villages on different dates in the first two months of the lunar calendar. The dates were set by the ancestors of each clan and are followed by the later generations.
On Nian Li, celebrations are held to pray for good weather, good harvest, peace and prosperity, including ceremony of greeting gods, parade for worshiping gods, banquets and folklore performances.
Generally speaking, ceremony of greeting gods, parade for worshiping gods and folklore performances are held in the public with village as a unit, while banquets are served in each family with household as a unit.
People watch Cantonese opera performances during Nian Li in Maoming.
Public activities include lion dance, dragon dance, martial arts demonstration, puppet shows, Cantonese opera performances, firework and firecracker shows, bamboo torch parade, sports competitions, dancing and singing performances, and so on.
Houses and public places like roads and squares in the village are decorated with colored flags, lanterns and illuminations. Host family prepares fancy lunch and dinner for relatives, friends and even strangers coming in without invitation.