I’ve been a little lazy with the blog again, but fear not, I’m back from holiday and a lunar year more experienced for it!!
For, of course, it was Chinese New Year last week with the two-week long Spring Festival to boot. The festival sees working China virtually grind to a standstill for two weeks, including schools, banks and even most restaurants, for the population to disappear to their home towns to spend some quality time with friends and family.
From the stories I hear this mainly includes endless streams of extended family, copious amounts of grandma’s best from the kitchen and hours and hours of mahjong. All sounds pretty familiar, I’d say… Excluding the apparent willingness to win lots of money off their own family members. Chinese tradition dictates that loved ones, particularly children, receive a ‘hong bao’, a small red envelope stuffed with money, signifying good luck and prosperity for the coming year. One of my elder teenagers gambled his entire hong bao playing mahjong, losing the vast majority to his father. Lovely.
Other favourites include gathering around to watch the Spring Festival Gala, a televised procession of the great and good, interspersed with traditional song and dance. Although the popularity of this is waning, some interesting moments cropped up, most notably from Li Na, the star of Chinese tennis and recently crowned Australian Open champion, who caused a stir by refusing to appear to collect a reward from the government for her services to China.
So what about the dragon…?
Legend has it that in ancient times a huge monster called Nian came to terrify the local people, each year on certain days in the lunar calendar. The people were so afraid that they stated indoors, cowering from the beast, which came to destroy their lives. As in any good Chinese folk stories, a wise man appears to save the day. By working together as a community, he persuaded the people that rid themselves of Nian by banging gongs and drums, setting off fireworks and being a general nuisance. Nian came again, but the people had prepared, their plan going off without a hitch… Nian was forced to flee, running himself to exhaustion allowing the people to overcome and slay the monster.
What was I doing, you may ask, during all of this mayhem? Well, I decided to avoid the chaos of the mad dash for home (trains being booked up for weeks before), the sleepless firework-filled nights and the ghost town that was left behind. I spread my wings for Thailand. More on that next week!!
For now 春节快乐 to everybody from China, and have a great week!