Friday, February 8, 2013

Chinese New Year

Red lanterns hang from buildings
Chinese New Year (also called Spring Festival or Lunar Festival) is the longest and most important holiday in China.  Today, families across China, will gather for the New Year's Eve Celebration. The Chinese New Year celebration follows the lunar calendar, or cycles of the new moon.

Jeanie with the Chinese Dragon
Washing and cleaning before the New Year
 The holiday has been apparent in Shanghai for the last month.  It's like Christmas and Thanksgiving all in one.  Decorations and displays are visible a month before the actual date, February 10, 2013.  Red lanterns hang from buildings, orange mandarin  trees are placed in entry ways,  red decorations with themes of good fortune and happiness hang on windows and doors.  Families clean their homes to let out evil spirits in hopes for good luck to reside in their homes. They cook and prepare for days before the New Year.

Ken with colleagues; staying alive in their
 work party costume coats
Work and school parties for the New Year were planned weeks ago. Ken had to dance gangnam style at his work party. Workers take off early this week to take the  drive/train/plane home to see their families.  They call Chinese New Year, the GREAT MIGRATION.   Many shops, gyms, businesses and  restaurants close down for at least one week.
New Year's decorations in the stores

Today I gave red envelopes to those workers who help us on a weekly or daily basis:  doormen to the apartment, ayi (housekeeper who comes in 2 days a week), and the driver who takes Ken to Intel.  The envelopes are bright red (red is the lucky color) and  money is placed inside.  I gave them the envelope and said: Xin Nian Kuale (Happy New Year  or I can say Chunjie Kuaile (Happy Spring Festival).

 By the way, it IS NOT SPRING in Shanghai.  It is 32 degrees and snowing.
Friends at our apt preparing dumplings

So what actually happens on the New Year?

Ken with our teacher friend Ma Lin and
her family at dim sum
Saturday:  Families gather for BIG FEASTS.   Dumplings, dumplings, and more dumplings. The whole family sits around the round table with the oldest in the first position at the table.

Good luck envelopes are everywhere
Then, fireworks and firecrackers. The belief is that the loud noise of the firecrackers will scare away evil spirits and prevent them from coming into the New Year. They say that one cannot sleep in Shanghai for at least 3 days because of all the noise.

Sunday:  Families greet everyone with Xin Nian Kuale!  Kids get their red envelopes filled with money.  More firecrackers.

Monday: Family activities: go to the movies, opera, visit the temple, more red envelopes, and more fireworks.

Sparkly snake on Nanjing Road
This year is the Year of the Snake. Those born in snake years are wise, charming, gregarious, introverted and smart. Snake Years:  1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001

Red is the New Year color
Ken and I will take advantage of my school days and his work days off.  We travel to Hong Kong, which also celebrates Chinese New Year.

As Asians around the world celebrate with their families, eat yummy food, and practice generosity, we hope you can do the same.

Happy New Year and Spring Festival!
                              Jeanie and Ken

Next time:  Hong Kong