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Home  /  Inside China  /  Jiaozi and TV – Chinese New Year Traditions
Jiaozi and TV – Chinese New Year Traditions print version
In its 28 years, the CCTV (China Central Television) New Years Gala (chūnjié liánhuān wǎnhuì) has become one of the biggest New Lunar Year traditions. Despite not managing to avoid criticism of not keeping up with modern society, most families still regard it as the finest dinner dish.
Middle aged and younger Chinese, find it hard to answer what is a more traditional Chinese new year activity: Complying with old holiday traditions, or watching the CCTV New Year Gala (春节联欢晚会, chūnjié liánhuān wǎnhuì)? In China, as in China, there are no contradictions between the two, as long as the holiday spirit is promoted.

The New Year Gala is broadcasted between 8pm until midnight on the night of the new year (除夕 chúxī), since its debut appearance in 1982. Currently it is the most viewed program in China, with about 800 million viewers every year. Acrobatics, ethnic dancing, songs and many comedy skits (小品 xiǎo pǐn) keep the audience connected, though with its four hours of length, it's possible that sometimes the program is the background for the family reunion, and not only the other way around. Despite its popularity, no commercials interrupt the program, showing that in some occasions greediness is still kept latent.  

As TVs are indispensible even in remote and poor regions in China, and most Chinese don't consider TV as a 'pollution' in meaningful occasions (try getting a massage in China without having the masseur keeping one eye on the screen), families see the program as a promoter of family warmth and not as an obstacle in communication, as a more western approach might view, particularly if the fact, that Spring Festival (春节 chūnjié) is often the only time parents spend with their children throughout the year, is considered.

The elders mostly enjoy the TV which assists in overcoming the generation gap, and the fact that the entire country is focused in one program might add a reddish united flavor, favored by the older generation. By whom, then the New Year Gala might be disregarded? Youngsters who are excited to make a long journey to visit their parents are likely to cooperate, though others who have their parents near all year long and have less sentiments towards new years traditions, are more likely to find the New Year Gala, a bit, if not very, boring.

For those whom the Chinese new year doesn't symbolize a long anticipated get together and are above the childhood stage, when the festive was associated with presents, thrilling firecrackers and cute zodiac animals, the central TV program is not the biggest attractions. In recent years some internet new year galas became popular, giving viewers a more upbeat and less formal touch, as well as a more local (as opposed to national) orientation.

In tonight's (2.2.11) CCTV Gala, there were some attempts of dealing with hot social issues, trying, perhaps, to show that the program is connected with what's happening 'outside'. One of the skits dealt with marriage and divorce (离婚 líhūn) and another dealt, indirectly, with housing prices, as a girl hesitates whether to go with her true love, despite the fact he doesn't own an apartment (yet concluding with the romantic moral that "房子不是家,有爱才有家" - 'An apartment isn't a home, home is where love is').

For middle class youngster, who master urban-internet slang and have their eyes crossed towards the western culture, the CCTV Gala is still unlikely to be seen as up-to-date, but after all, how can one show suit the taste of everyone. For the vast majority, the New Year show is still the tastiest dish in the family dinner.

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