Bai Nian is a traditional Chinese custom, a practice for people to ring out the old year and ring in the new year, as well as to express good wishes for friends and family members. On the first day of the Chinese New Year, families taking with children visit relatives, friends or senior members of their extended family. They convey New Year greetings with auspicious words. The juniors must kowtow to senior relatives, called Bai Nian. The host families treat guests with snacks, sugars and red envelopes.
On the first day of the Chinese New Year, people wear new clothing. After setting off the first firecracker, they will visit relatives and convey New Year greetings. According to the tradition, the sequence of Bai Nian was firstly worshiping Heaven and Earth, then worshiping ancestors, and kowtowing to parents and then visiting relatives and friends. Also, there are also conventions on visiting different people on different days. For example, the married couple visits the husband’s family on the first day of the New Year and the wife’s family on the second day and relatives and friends successively. Bai Nian lasts until the 15th day of the first lunar month. In ancient times, Bai Nian and He Nian were different. Bai Nian was kowtowing to senior family members, while He Nian was conveying greetings among people in the same generation. In the Song Dynasty, people sent cards to greet New Year, which were the early version of New Year cards. In the Ming Dynasty, the New Year cards were more elaborately designed, written with the name of sender and address, as well as auspicious wishes such as happy New Year and good luck.
In the Spring Festival, the senior family members would prepare Yasuiqian (red envelope) for the younger generation when receiving their greetings. Yasuiqian represents best wishes for the younger generation. It’s heard that Yasuiqian could ward off devils because year shares the pronunciation with ghost. Thus, Yasuiqian is also known as “money warding off evil spirits”. The younger generation would have a safe new year with Yasuiqian. Yasuiqian could be given when the younger generation conveys New Year greetings or puts under the pillow. People place Yasuiqian under the pillow aiming to ward off devils. When evils or fabulous Nian are going to attack kids, children could keep safe by using money to bribe them. Of course, this is not true and only the blessings of the older generation to children wishing them having a healthy and safe new year.