Sunday, January 22, 2012


新年愉快! Happy New Year! 年年有余!May you always have more! 万事如意! May all your wishes come true! Greetings and Happy Spring Festival from Nanjing!

In order to see what New Years in China was all about, Kevin and I did what we do best: wander the streets! We walked to a palace near the river and went through some residential areas, seeing what there was to see and figuring out how it all tied into the New Year.

So, a brief history/culture lesson. Chinese New Year is celebrated in accordance with the lunar calendar, so the date is always changing and it isn’t the same as the western New Year. According to Chinese tradition, there is a monster called (year) who every year on the new year comes to town. In order to scare off and the bad luck that he brings, Chinese people wear and decorate their houses in red (a color that is afraid of) and set off fire works (to scare away).

In addition, during new years or (Spring Festival), Chinese people sweep/clean their houses to sweep away bad luck, get new shoes/clothes to have good luck in the coming year, and have a feast on new year’s eve. The feast consists of several key items in addition to whatever they want to eat, including oranges (because they are golden and round like old money), fish (yu, the Chinese word for fish, is also a homonym for yu, meaning excess or more), and long noodles (representing longevity).

Everyone goes home for the New Year. Children return to their parents, everyone goes home to their grandparents, and people celebrate the holiday with family. Traditionally the Spring Festival celebrations last for 10 days, however because of modern times, not many people still celebrate for that long. Everything depends on the modern schedule. For instance, because my office registers incoming international students this coming week (during traditional festival celebrations) we get Monday and Tuesday (new year’s day and the day after) off, and then if we are in town we go back to work on Wednesday.

Ever since the 40s Chinese families have also celebrated the New Year by watching CCTV’s Spring Festival Celebration. It is a show that goes from 8:00 New Year’s eve to 12:30 New Years morning, and draws a crowd of about 40% of Chinese households. Traditionally families will gather together, make dumplings for New Years day, and watch the celebration. Kevin and I witnessed this while we were walking home, passing by some of the restaurants on my street, seeing the TVs inside alight with dancers and singers and comedians. 

 Anyways, back to the story. So we wandered to the palace, which, because it was New Year’s eve, was closed, and then just wandered around the area. There were some old people hanging out outside the gate, kids playing with the snow, and people burning offerings on the street. You buy paper money around this time and burn it as an offering to your ancestors. 



Red clothing and other decorations were everywhere; some covered in snow and some still intact, and there were fireworks booths on almost every corner. And with the fireworks booths inevitably came the remains of hundreds of fireworks/firecrackers etc. Red was everywhere (and still is) on the street. 

Because of the snow, it was a very nice air quality day. Those buildings on the skyline? On a normal day those would be almost completely covered by smog. Even when we went to Purple Mountain we still couldn’t see the whole city for the smog. 

All of the stores were closed, save for supermarkets and fast food restaurants. It was strange to see a street that on a normal day would have several dozen people cooking and eating and running around dead silent and all closed up. Some shop keepers had pasted red luck banners on their doors. 


The word fu, or prosperity, is turned upside down in the same manner that a horseshoe is, so that the luck flows out.

That night after warming up we bundled ourselves and once again set out. The fireworks had been going on all day making the city seem like a joyous warzone, and we decided to take part in the fun. For 5 kuai, a little less than a dollar, we got 12 packs of these poppers and wandered the streets popping and looking for fireworks.

We didn’t have to wait long. A family on the street had bought a huge box of mortars and had just set them alight as we got their. Yay for video phones!

The city was awesomely crazy. Even some of the buildings had set their lights to flicker like fireworks.

We went back inside around 10:30 and waited for midnight to arrive. Below are some videos of the mayhem that ensued for about 20 minutes when the clock struck 12. The night sky light up with color and sound, and people right outside our window were lighting up chain poppers, some of them dangerously close to power lines and cars. 

 It was a pretty neat experience. Everyone is still celebrating, shooting off fireworks and the like, and I'm guessing we'll still be hearing fireworks shooting off for the next week or so. But nothing like last night. That was rather amazing, seeing the sky light up like it was the 4th of July times fifty. I wonder if the US would be like this if we didn't keep such tight regulations on fireworks? Hmm..
Anywho, today will be a nice break, everything is closed so there's nothing to do but put on pjs and relax. 

Happy New Year! Love,
PS: the videos aren't uploading because blogspot sucks, I'll upload as soon as the bug gets fixed!

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