导读：多年来，吃饺子、看春晚(Spring Festival Gala)已成为中国老百姓过春节的民俗风尚。而随着时代的发展和人们精神生活的丰富提高，春晚这道“年夜饭”却成了一块饱受诟病的鸡肋。
Along with eating dumplings and setting off fireworks, watching the annual CCTV Spring Festival Gala has been a Lunar New Year ritualfor many Chinese families over the past three decades.
The nearly five-hour long show draws between 400 million to 700 million viewers every year, according to statistics from CCTV. The 2012 gala, with an average reach of 499 million viewers, set a new Guinness World Record for the “Most Watched National Network TV Broadcast”.
Despite being a massively popular show, the CCTV gala is not merely entertainment.
“It’s part of modern culture for Chinese people,” Huang Yihe, director of the first CCTV gala in 1983, told China Daily. “[People] have been working for a whole year and need an outlet to express their emotions.”
The first CCTV gala was broadcast live at a time when it was considered a luxury to have a TV in China. As TV sets became affordable for more families, the gala turned into an indispensable part of the Lunar New Year.
Times, of course, have changed. “The gala is much more complicated than before,” 78-year-old Huang said. “The gala was born at a special time in our nation’s history. Like our country, it developed fast.”
Changes can be both good and bad. The gala’s popularity has gradually declined in recent years, with the number of comments criticizing the show increasing. Many critics are from the younger generations, lamenting the show’s lack of creativity and fun.
“Organizers need to know the audience and understand what they like,” said Wu Xiao, 22, a senior in English at Qingdao University.
Like many from the post-1990 generation, Wu is never short of entertainment choices on Lunar New Year’s Eve. Surfing the Internet and playing games on gadgets ― the CCTV gala is not a priorityanymore.
In order to attract viewers from a younger demographic, gala organizers have been putting much effort into finding out what they want. Months ago, director Ha Wen took her team to various cities to talk with young people and get feedback.
“We listened to them and hopefully they will get what they want from the show,” she said in an interview with Beijing Evening News last month.
For the past few years, the gala has featured more pop stars, especially from Hong Kong and Taiwan. This year, international star Celine Dion is scheduled to make an appearance.
“I certainly appreciate their effort. Balancing viewers’ interests and the show’s variety is no easy task,” Wu said.
But one aspect of the gala has not changed, and that is the undeniable meaning it has for Chinese people.
Despite the negativity, most Chinese people always watch CCTV on Lunar New Year’s Eve. Zhu Jun, who hosted the gala for 15 years, said in his book My Midnight Moment: “It is more like a habit for most Chinese people on that special night.”