Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快乐! The date for Chinese New Year changes every year, because it’s based on the lunar calendar. This year it’s on January 23rd. It’s kinda ridiculous that I don’t think I had ever even heard of the lunar new year until I moved to China! I got to celebrate the lunar new year once in China and once in Vietnam. I was surprised to find out how many countries and peoples celebrate this holiday. People of Chinese ethnicity all over the world and mostly Asians celebrate this- especially places such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and so many more. Also, China Towns outside of Asia have huge celebrations, with the largest one being in Sydney, Australia at around 600,000 people. So, if we think about China having 1.3 billion people, plus an additional couple of million, it’s estimated that about 1.4 billion people around the world celebrate this holiday. So, I think we all need to know at least a little bit about it!
This holiday is like our Christmas, a time to get together with family, eat traditional foods, and give gifts, usually of money in red envelopes called hong bao. Fireworks are a big part of this holiday, and on New Year’s Eve it sounds like a battlefield there are so many being set off. This supposedly goes back to an ancient tradition of filling bamboo with gun powder to create explosions which would scare away evil spirits. Red is the favorite color to decorate with and wear at this special time of the year. The Chinese word for red, hong, also means prosperous, which gives the color red its auspiciousness. Red paper lanterns are especially popular.
Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, (it’s almost spring, right? hehe) is the busiest travel time of the whole year. There is a 40 day time period in which people are travelling to see their families. It is said that this is the world’s largest annual migration! Some people, especially migrant workers, might stand in line for up to a week trying to secure a train ticket! I remember some of my students telling me that the only train tickets they could get were standing tickets, so they stood for the 30 hour trip home! (Flying is still an expensive way to travel for most Chinese.) Can you imagine?! It’s estimated that about 3.2 BILLION trips are made! Nowhere in the world do so many people travel at one time. And believe me, from personal experience, it is crowded in every plane, train, and bus! Read this NPR article if you want to know more about the travel situation: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=145437786
Well, I for one am sad not to be somewhere in Asia celebrating this wonderful holiday. I wish I could be sitting at the dinner table with some Chinese friends eating traditional food and hearing the distant pops of firecrackers. Oh well….maybe next year! Xin Nian Kuai Le! Happy year of the dragon!