The Chinese New Year – what is the fuss about?

I am going to spend the first few days of the Chinese New Year in Beijing before heading to Vietnam. I’ve lived for some 16 years in Beijing, but hardly spent the most important festival here. For a few years I went home to Nanjing to visit my family. Mostly I escaped to somewhere warm in Southeast Asia. Somehow it is no longer a big deal to me. Maybe I’ve become a boring adult; and maybe there’s abundance of food and I don’t have to long for the festival.

As a child, I lived for it. As soon as we put on the padded winter coats, I would ask my grandma: “How many days to go before the Spring Festival?” All the best memories of my childhood were associated with it. To start with, it was the only time in the whole year when we could eat juicy meat dishes without constraint. Grandma would work around the clock to prepare for the reunion dinner on the New Year’s Eve. Unlike nowadays you can buy ready-made mince or spring roll skin, we had to make everything from scratch. As I am writing this, I can hear, in my head, the ‘bang’ ‘bang’ sound grandma made as she crashed out a rhythm on a chopping board, mincing port with a large chopper in each hand. After the reunion dinner, she would stay up late to make peanuts candies or roast peanuts. Our crowded flat would be filled with aroma of food.

Outside the air was filled with explosives. Fireworks must be one of the most exciting inventions China had. While other girls covered their ears, I would join the boys to let off firecrackers. Holding my breath, with a thumping heart and shaking hands, I would light the fuse on a string of firecrackers tied to a long bamboo stick. The string would jump to life, cracking, spitting fire and noise, like a mini fire dragon. I was never sure if the deafening roar of firecrackers would really drive away evil spirits as her grandma claimed but it would drive me up to the Ninth Heaven. And the dark sky would be decorated with fireworks.

I often wonder what the Spring Festival mean to today’s children.

It is the oldest, grandest and most colourful festival in China with a history of more than four thousand years. It is called chunjie in Chinese – spring festival. It started when people worshipped their ancestors in the end of the year with sacrifice, bathed themselves and cleaned up the house. The celebration was also to welcome the coming of the spring. It follows the Chinese lunar calendar, which means it varies from one year to another, usually from Mid Jan to the end of Feb.

It is the big occasion for the family to get together. Every year, when millions of migrant workers return to their home village for the Spring Festival, they form a tidal wave.

2013 will be the Year of Snake, to be precise black water snake. According to the traditional wisdom, there may be danger and uncertainly. So it is time to watch out your pocket, avoiding spending too much and reckless actions. If you are thinking to start-up a company or get married, consider it carefully. If you exercise caution, in the end, things will work out just fine.

For anyone reading this, I wish plenty of joy, success and adventures will snake into your year of 2013.


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