Xiao Nian is not a specific festival. Because of local customs, the festival known as Xiao Nian is not the same. Xiao Nian in different places has different concepts and date in lunar calendar, in northern China, it’s 23rd in twelfth month. In the south, it’s 24th in twelfth month. In Jiangsu region, "24th in twelve month" and "the night before New Year's Eve" are called Xiao Nian. In Nanjing area, it’s the Lantern Festival. In some parts of Yunnan, it’s the 16th day in the first month. In southwestern and northern part of the ethnic minority areas, it’s New Year's Eve.
Xiao Nian’s coming also means that people begin to prepare for the goods used in New Year and to be ready to a good and clean year, which is said that in the New Year there must be a new atmosphere, and express a kind of good wishes of the Chinese working people to bid farewell to the old year and usher the New Year.
So what do Chinese do in the Xiao Nian?
Sweeping the dust: After 23rd, there are only six or seven days left from the Spring Festival. The preparation for the Spring Festival seems more enthusiastic. Thoroughly cleaning the room, commonly known as sweeping dust, is to get rid of the old, to welcome the new, and to pull out the ominous. Each household must carry on the cleaning thoroughly earnestly.
Clipping paper-cut for windows: In all the preparations, paper-cut is the most popular folk activity. There are various kinds of animals, plants and so on.
Spring festival couplets: Every family should write Spring Festival couplets. Ordinary people pay attention to the tradition: every door will be stick, everything will be stick. So the number of Spring Festival couplets is largest, the content is most complete. The antithetical couplet before the god pays special attention mostly for the words of admiration and blessing.
Sacrifice to kitchen god: This day is also the day of sacrifice in folk area. According to folklores, on the 23rd day of the twelfth month of the lunar calendar, the kitchen god will report the good and evil of the family to the jade emperor, who will reward and punish the family. When offering sacrifices to the kitchen, we should melt the sugar with fire and put it on the mouth of the kitchen god. In this way, he could not speak ill of the family before the jade emperor.
Wash bath: Both of adults and children need to wash bath and haircut. Leave no filth and be ready for a good year
Marriage: After 23rd, the folk think the gods have went to heaven and there is no taboo. Until the end of the year, many weddings are held.