Xin nian kuai le!
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Happy Chinese New Year to you! Or 'xin nian kuai le'! 2013, the year of the snake.
Just thought we’d check in with you all on an exciting day, the equivalent of our new years eve, at midnight tonight, we enter the year of the snake.
I’ve just walked back from town having met my friend Tracey for lunch (Andy has been having a working lunch, and has signed a deal J that’s the way I like it, I lunch, he works!!!). The whole city has emptied out & is eerily quiet, shops and restaurants are actually closed, not all, but this is something we’ve never seen since being here. There is an air of excitement even though it’s quiet, with people buying fireworks from the pop up shops here, a few fireworks & firecrackers already being let of, big queues in the shops that are open, as they will shut earlier than normal
It’s the Spring Festival, the biggest & most important in China and it lasts for 15 days. China has a population of over 1.3 billion, but during Spring Festival over 3 billion journeys are expected to be made as migrant workers & students go to their home provinces to spend time with relatives. Universities close for a month, workers get at least a week off, and many take leave to travel home for longer. There are huge queues for train tickets, and a huge demand on the transport systems. The start of the celebrations is tonight where people spend time with family & friends eating dumplings, giving red envelopes (hong bao, symbolising the giving of good fortune) with ‘lucky money’ in to relatives, especially children to buy holiday treats, and then spending time together during the week that follows. The festival ends on the 24th February with the Lantern Festival.
It’s usual to hang red decorations outside the house, to spring clean, and to buy new things. Red & gold decorations adorn doorways, shops, alleyways, along with pretty red lanterns, symbolising good luck, prosperity, happiness & health for the coming year. The Chinese believe that each new year represents a new beginning & a new opportunity
The Festival celebrates the arrival of the new lunar new year. It commences on the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar, usually falling between late January and mid February. The year of the dragon is ending, making way for the year of the snake. The dragon is seen as the most powerful sign where important things happen in dragon years (like getting married & moving to Beijing perhaps?!?!), each sign comes around once every 12 years. The snake is also important, and the Chinese call the snake a ‘little dragon’ (it’s said that the dragon fell from the sky and became a snake). The snake represents an important period of implementation of change that started in dragon years. The snake can be ambitious as it can swallow an animal twice its size and its splitting tongue can be a sign of an argument – it implies the potential of libel, dispute, or slander. It’s believe that the snake will not attack an opponent unless it’s disturbed, so the advice is to not fool with those born in the year of the snake…….. (1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001).
Why 12 animals? There are several interpretations of its origin. Most agree that the 12 animals were the animals that appeared in response to an invitation to a celebration from Buddha or the Jade Emperor. Another legend says that the animals fought over their place in the calendar, and in order to fairly resolve the conflict, the gods had them race across a river.
At midnight, we are expecting huge explosions of fireworks, in fact they’ve been going off all day, getting louder & louder
Recently, the authorities appealed to the Chinese people to reduce the firing of fireworks because of the already high pollution levels…… I can’t really see that happening….!! In Henan province last week, a truck carrying fireworks exploded killing at least 10 people and causing a road to collapse. Most years a few hundred people are injured and a couple of people die from firework related injuries. Stand by dog lovers….. you know how I hate stupid little dogs, so I’m thinking that the all the stupid little dogs here will be quaking in their stupid little boots for days on end…….
So, where we will be? We are going to Gina’s apartment which is a 10 minute walk away, with a group of friends having some food & a few drinks, she lives on the 18th floor and has amazing views over the city, and the hutongs, the view isn’t blocked by big tower blocks, and you can see the Forbidden City in the distance too, the view of the fireworks should be quite something.
Happy New Year everyone!
Tracy & Andy