Amazing similarities between Chinese New Year and Jewish Passover

Currently Chinese people are just celebrating the Spring Festival holiday. The Spring Festival, known as Chinese New Year, is the most important traditional holiday celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar. Just like Jewish Passover, The Spring Festival also has numerous traditions to observe, what more interesting is that the Spring Festival has many similarities with Jewish Passover. To some extent, Passover is a spring festival, The Spring Festival is a “Passover”, and both mark the beginning of the traditional calendar year. Let me explain more as follows.

Origin: Shunning the one devours children and livestock
Passover originates from Exodus of The Bible, according to Exodus11-12, Hebrew slaves were released from bondage under Pharaoh in Egypt, and led out of Egypt by Moses about 3400 years ago in the wake of Egyptian firstborn death, the last one of ten plagues G-d sent on Egypt. G-d told Moses that the Israelites should apply lamb’s blood on their lintels so that the Angel of death could skip their houses and save their sons from this plague.

The Spring Festival also has thousands years of history with analogous origin, celebrating Spring Festival in China is called “Guo Nian”(过年, literally means passing the year), according to folktale Nian is a monster which prowls around like a roaring lion looking for children and livestock to devour on the last day of a year, so people try to shun Nian to keep safe, ancient Chinese people place red cherry wooden and red lanterns on the doorframe, afterwards people stick the Duilian(Spring Couplets, a set of red paper written in auspicious words) on the doorframe, it’s quite like effect of the lamb’s blood and the words Jewish people wrote on their doorframes. See Exodus12:7 and Deuteronomy 6:9.

Time and Importance: First month of traditional year, family reunion
Passover comes on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month Nisan, lasting for seven or eight days. While the Spring Festival celebrations traditionally start from Chinese New Year’s Eve, namely Chuxi, the last day of the last month of the Chinese lunar calendar, to the Lantern Festival(Yuanxiao) on the fifteenth day(full moon day) of the first month, making it the longest festival in the China.

As the Spring Festival is the most important festival for Chinese people, there is a reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve, namely Nianyefan, resembling Passover seder, family members who are no longer living together make every endeavor to return home for reunion. Chinese people traditionally stay awake all the night within home, and lights are kept on the entire night to make the most of the family get-together.

Preparation: Festival shopping and dusting
Chinese people normally prepare for the Spring Festival several days ahead, while many families start to prepare the Spring Festival food from the eighth day of last month before the festival. Every family does hefty shopping to buy specialty food and utensil for the festival. Houses are cleansed thoroughly on Chuxi, also known as dusting day, Chinese people don’t remove the unleavened food, but they sort out old and idle stuff, sell or throw away or born them, just like Jewish people searching for the Chametz and getting rid of it. And it has the similar meaning with Jewish Passover: all the old has gone, all the new is coming.

Ritual and practice: Toasting, blessing, unleavened food, holding stuff
There are feasts during the festival, at the feasts, the oldest man sits above the salt, raises the first cup to toast and bless everyone, and then other family members toast back and one another. Chinese people also eat some special food during the festival, including Jiaozi(dampling), Tangyuan(Soup ball, quite like bread manna), Chunjuan(Spring Roll) and Niangao(New Year Cake), incidentally they are all unleavened food despite we don’t have special food taboos, some family share the big round Niangao at Nianyefan, just like Jewish family share the Matzo at Passover seder. In some rural area, the elders hold stuff, quite like what Hebrew people do according to The Bible, Exodus12:11.

Asking and giving: Questions, gifts, new clothes
During the Spring Festival, people can set riddles and puzzles to others for amusing challenge, when the children solve the question, they will get praises and even material award such as the most delicious food or other prizes.

The old people and young children were given new clothes and Ang Pow(Red envelopes) with money inside, especially kids can ask for Ang Pow from their neighbors and relatives. Israelites also ask for articles of silver and gold and clothing from their neighbors. Exodus11:2 and Exodus12:35

Religious commonness: Fear, Sabbath, Worship, Commemoration
Chinese New Year’s Eve is also called Nianguan(Year pass), at this time people can be both joyful and excited, and many people are either relaxed or restless, on the Chuxi night, some people are worried about the Nianguan because of uncertainty and challenges ahead, people usually keep in family until the first morning of Chinese New Year. Jewish people also stay at home with family. See Exodus 12:22

Chinese people normally do no work except for preparing food during the first week of the Chinese New year. While Jewish people also keep Sabbath in the seven days from Passover. See Exodus 12:16

In some poor families, people just fear the Spring Festival, they worried about feast food, but eventually most of fears are uncalled-for, just like the Israeli rabble wailing and complaining to Moses for food. See Numbers 11:4-6.

There is no specific god in Chinese traditional culture, but Chinese people worship the Tian(Heaven) and their ancestors, so before having the first reunion feast, they offer the feast to Heaven and ancestor to thank their blessings. Israelites also offer the feast to The Lord and commemorate The Lord save them from slavery of Egyptian Pharaoh. See Exodus 12:14.

These Above don’t cover all the commonness, I can only write what I really believe within my limited knowledge scope. The similarities between Chinese New Year and Hebrew Passover manifest the amazing arrangement of the Creator. He is the G-d almighty, all-knowing, and the Creator of all things and ruler of all nations.

About the Author
The author is the founder of Israel Plan Organization, the NPO organization supporting and promoting Israel in China. He lived in Israel for two years, and studied MBA at IDC Herzliya.
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