'Annual Debate' on Chinese-Tradition and Christianity: Should Christians Celebrate Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year (photo: Pixabay)
By Elsie HuJanuary 12th, 2018

Last week Chinese observed the Laba Festival, a traditional Chinese holiday and articles related to whether Christians should Celebrate the Laba Festival flooded the Internet. It seems that Christian platforms release posts and articles concerning if Christians can celebrate XX festival upon the arrival of a certain Chinese traditional holiday.

Now the Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, is around the corner. Speaking of the most important festival, some traditional Chinese families may post goalkeeper on their doors, worship heaven and ancestor. So there comes the annual question for Christians: Should Christians observe the Chinese New Year? How Should Christians join in the celebration at home?

Rev. Li from Jiangxi tells CCD that "the significance of the Spring Festival differs from that in the past so Christians can view it in a different perspective. "

The source of the festival comes from an old tale that a mysterious beast called Nian (年) came out of mountains and ate people on the last day of the twelve months of the Chinese calendar. People had to hang over meat on the door to protect themselves. They opened doors and greeted each other until Nian had the food and left.

Later people found that the Nian feared sounds and things in red. So they would hang red lanterns and red paper on windows and doors upon its approaching. People also set off firecrackers to scare the monster away. Since then, Nian never came again. That practice came through the years, called "Guo Nian" at present.

But now "Guo Nian" or celebrating the New Year is the time for family reunion. "Many migrate workers who hardly go back home throughout the year get together with their families during the Spring Festival holiday," says Rev. Li, "Currently 'Guo Nian' means reunion and its form and significance are different from the past. It's okay to 'Guo Nian' at home as long as it doesn't involve things that violate the biblical principles."

Then what goes against the biblical principles?

For instance, we can see in the Ten Commandments: "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me." (Exodus 20:4-5)

Plus, "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth.Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:34-36)

Also, we should remember: 'I have the right to do anything,' you say -but not everything is beneficial. 'I have the right to do anything' -but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Corinthians 6:12 )

Now that Christians can celebrate the festival at home, but there are controversies about the traditional customs of heaven and ancestor worship among Chinese Christians. Should Christians follow such practices?

Sister Zhang from a church of Shanghai claims, "We can commemorate deceased family members, which is blameless for religious people or the unreligious. But be cautious in joining in this sort of worship thing."

Since the ancient time, China has various worship customs to pray for peace and prosperity in the coming year. In the past emperors offered sacrifices to heaven and folks to pagan gods like the door god and the kitchen god. In the countryside villagers worshiped immortals. These are regarded as worshiping idols. Zhang suggests that we should tell relatives to avoid such practices and show our belief.

Rev. Elijah from Shanghai believes that Christians should have a correct view of the Chinese New Year celebrations, away from the opinion that this issue is "untouchable". The pastor mentions that the older generation considers that no kitchen knife or cooking are permitted on the first three days of the Chinese lunar new year and bad words are forbidden. However, the old customs have been abandoned with the reform, opening up and social development.

"Now many people are not superstitious anymore during the celebrations so the celebrations don't affect Christians, for the period "year" is ordered by God. Christian can eat, drink and be merry during the new year without any involvement in superstitious matters." Besides, believers need to associate and communicate with relatives and friends.

Some may claim that Dec 25 was the day when the Roman emperor worshiped the sun-god, therefore, Christmas should not be celebrated. He replies, "We can't refuse to worship God because some do evil things on a certain day. Christians from a place used to celebrate holidays including the Mid-autumn Day, the Dragon Boat Festival or the Spring Festival, determining to separate from the world. But consecration doesn't mean outward separation or not observing any holiday, but to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. Others may feel it weird if you stay at home alone and do nothing when everybody celebrating the Spring Festival. Separation represents the exclusion from sins in your heart rather than the external lifestyle isolated from society."

Sister Liu adds that it's also a good time to reach people during the lunar new year. "The believers of our fellowship will bring several copies of the Bible home and preach the gospel to their relatives. They will give copies to those who desire."

Even some days related to traditional holidays can be used by the Lord. "Don't be fettered by the new year celebrations and wonder whether to celebrate it or not...Keep in mind how to work for the Lord in the festival season. " Liu claims. 

Translated by: Karen Luo

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