The 23rd day of the 12th lunar month
This day, commonly known as xiaonian, is the main occasion for worshipping the Kitchen God.
Legend has it that on this day the Kitchen God reports all earthly affairs to Jade Emperor, the highest deity in the Chinese pantheon. Hence people put candy and fruits before a statue of the Kitchen God; then, placing honey on his mouth, people hope that he would bring good luck.
This is also a day for eating jiaozi (dumplings) and zaotang (a kind of barley sugar used in worshipping the Kitchen God), which is sweet and crisp.
The 24th day of the 12th lunar month
Since ancient times, Chinese people have observed the custom of cleaning their homes on the 24th day of the 12th lunar month.
In Chinese, the character “chen” (literally “dust”) has the same tone and pronunciation as one term for “old”. Hence, to dust is to sweep away the old and all that it entails, and to usher in the new. On this day, every household cleans forniture, bedding and utensils, dusts away cobwebs, and dredges ditches and canals.
The 27th day of the 12th lunar month
At this time, dishes are prepared for the lunar New Year. Beijing natives cook roosters, and other kinds of meat, as well as bathing and changing clothes to rid themselves of the old and dirty.
Indeed, it is said that bathing on this day helps to remove any bad luck or disease picked up in the year, expressing the desire for future health and happiness.
The 28th day of the 12th lunar month
On this day and the next, Beijing natives steam enough buns to feed the whole family for around a week. These buns are called genianchi (to be eaten in the following year), and are embellished with red dots, emblems of good luck.
During the Spring Festival, cooking methods such as steaming, frying, and baking are generally avoided, since “steam” has the same pronunciation as “dispute”, “fry” as “quarrel” and “explode”, while “bake” sounds similar to “fall”. As for Beijingers, they refrain from using flames to cook in their kitchens from the first to the fifth day of the first lunar month.