In addition to hearing and seeing lots of fireworks, I celebrated the Lunar New Year in a few more ways. First, a little background, the Spring Festival is the official name of the biggest holiday in Asia. It is like taking Christmas, Independence Day and Thanksgiving and rolling them all into one, for you Americans out there.
It is also the time of the biggest migration in the world because it is the goal of almost all 1.3 billion+ Chinese people to get home for the holiday. For this reason, stores are shut down for a couple of weeks, not big stores just the little local shops and eateries, and it is nearly impossible to get train tickets or bus tickets anywhere. Good thing there are airplanes and that airlines give discounts for traveling during this time.
The travel period is forty days long even though the holiday is only a week long, one of two golden weeks in China. Schools have a five week break and for about five days most government offices and many businesses shut down.
Decorations include lots of red and many other things considered lucky in Chinese culture, which is just about anything for some reason or another, like peaches, fish and lanterns. The festival officially begins on the eve of the lunar New Year and goes until the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day of the lunar year though most people are back to work before the Lantern Festival.
This year is the year of the dragon, so dragons are also a big part of the festivities and decorations. Businesses also leave up many of their Christmas decorations like large trees in front of their stores for festival decorations too.
Many places and cities will also put up lantern displays. When I say lanterns I don’t just mean the traditional hanging lanterns but giant, shaped lanterns of various colors. These can be in the shape of anything. Basically, they are pieces of metal welded together to create a 3D cage or frame to cover with fabric letting the lights inside make it all glow at night. I’ll share some pics from the Xi’an lantern festival in a future post.
Anyway, a couple of days before the festival, Aaron and I went with a friend to a KTV, karaoke in a private, posh room for only your small group – a great idea that needs to be taken to America. After a few hours of KTV, we went to dinner with them. On New Year’s Eve, we went with our friend, Jamie, and his parents to their big family dinner. There were more than 100 people there from both sides of his family and the meal was like Thanksgiving with way too much food.
This is what the festival is all about for most Chinese. It is a time for them to go home and see family. When you ask anyone what they do for the Spring Festival they say they will go home and eat a big meal with family, and they will mention that dumplings are a part of the festivities. During the festival is also when they traditionally give and receive gifts, usually red envelopes with money, but sometimes actual toys or things.
Overall, this is an exciting but very busy time to be in China. I now better understand the whole Chinese New Year thing but only am beginning to understand all of the things that have significance or luck associated with them.
Aaron and I spent most of the week traveling. Our stops included Xi’an and the terracotta army, Hong Kong and Macau. Stay tuned for posts detailing those adventures – coming soon. In the mean time, happy New Year, again!