Traditionally the Spring Festival actually begins a week before the Chinese New Year (the 23th of the last month of Chinese lunar calendar), with the practice of offering a sacrifice to the Kitchen God, a god sent from Heaven to each family to take charge of family affairs and make a report on what the family has done in the past year to the Heaven God annually.
Strangely enough, the sacrifice to the Kitchen God is a lotus root-like sticky cake made of a kind of confection, a typical Chinese traditional candy, instead of the usual cows, pigs or sheep. The purpose of the practice is compromising, for people are making full use of the sticky cake to prevent the Kitchen God from speaking bad words of the family in Heaven by sticking his mouth. Of course, it seems to be quite a tacit agreement between the Kitchen God and his prayers; he is always accepting the sweet food from the people around. This tradition is no longer popular in cities now, but may still be observed in the countryside.
From the 23th to the 28th, it is the seedtime for the great festival. People usually buy various things varying from new clothes to delicious food. The Spring Festival is also the time for all family members getting together. Usually most people are trying to return home from different places before or on the New Year's Eve (the 29th). Therefore the week before the Chinese New Year is the busiest travel time in China.