Monday, January 23, 2012

Mandarin Mondays: Happy New Year (新年快乐)!

Huge lantern
Happy New Year! (xīnnián kuàilè!, 新年快乐!)

Yesterday was the official start of Spring Festival (Chūn jié, 春节), which is Chinese new year. This is the year of the dragon (lóng, ). Dragons, lanterns (dēng lóng, 灯笼), and other red (hóng sè, ) and yellow (huáng sè, 黄色) decorations are all over the city now.

The week before Spring Festival was very busy in the city. Everyone was buying new clothes, gifts, special food, and lots of fireworks. Going to the store was like shopping on the day after thanksgiving in the States...all week long. Bringing gifts, food, and money in red envelopes back to the family celebrations is very important here for this festival. People from the city were stocking up before they would travel, and people came in from the countryside to do their holiday shopping too.

Now that the festival has started though, most shops have closed down and the streets are nearly empty. Everyone who is able to has traveled back to the hometown of their oldest living relative. There they will celebrate for several days giving gifts and enjoying family dinners. Not returning home at this time will mean you are considered a bad son or daughter. Our family is wishing we were adapting to the culture and returning home now too, but travel is crazy now with everyone trying to travel at once. So I guess we're bad children right now.

But now that many people have left the city, it is quite quiet. That is, except for the massive amount of firecrackers (biān pào, 鞭炮) and fireworks (yān huā, 烟花) going off almost all of the time. Last night (the actual evening of their new year day, instead of new years eve like we celebrate in the West) they lit off tons of fireworks at midnight and periodically all throughout the night into the morning. Literally at midnight our windows shook, but the boys managed to sleep through it just fine. The boys actually love to watch the fireworks and get really excited when they are awake to see them. We can see a lot from our back porch as the fire department lights a bunch off each night, and we are right behind them.
Fireworks for sale

We learned later that we were kind of confused on the dates. The actual New Year's day this year was January 23, but the festival starts New Year's Eve, so people refer to this as the start of the holiday. So anyway, the biggest firework day is the New Year's Eve night into the New Year's Day.

It will be interesting to see what else this quiet/noisy week holds here. Hope you all are have a great week and have a happy new year!

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