Happy Year of the Monkey!
It’s not a big secret that China’s population is large… very large! And with people moving from their hometowns to all over the country for work or study, the holiday times can get very stressful. Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is China’s biggest national holiday. Millions (or billions) of people from all over the country take this chance to return home and spend some quality time with their families. This is also known as the 春运(chūnyùn) aka the human migration during Spring Festival aka the largest annual human migration in the world!
Despite my fear of large crowds, I’ve spent all of my Chinese New Years in different places. My first was spent in Beijing and was unforgettable. Fireworks and firecrackers were let off left, right and centre – despite being down a small alley. People were even throwing them at their friends, y’know… “for a laugh”. I take it they’ve never seen the firework adverts on TV back in the UK! We travelled to Jiuzhaigou for my second CNY, which was surprisingly stress free! It turned out more people were visiting their families rather than one of the most beautiful places on Earth. And last year I was in the comfort of my own home in England. Which is why this year was a little different – I had no plans to go anywhere.
This year, Chinese New Year’s Eve was spent at our friends house, eating delicious home cooked food, watching China’s infamous New Year’s Celebration show on CCTV, introducing his family to a classic game of Monopoly (of course, we didn’t get to finish it because Monopoly is the longest game in the world…) and wandering the streets, looking at and setting of fireworks and firecrackers. We then spent a night in his hometown, 射洪(Shèhóng). Due to the increased traffic on the roads, this usually 2.5hour journey took us nearly 4.5hours, but was well worth while. We visited a Taoist temple on Jinhua Mountain, went to a rather interesting dinosaur museum and at food… a lot of food.
In an effort to control the ever increasing pollution in Chengdu, fireworks on Chinese New Year have now been restricted to outside of the city centre. Lucky for us, we were outside the third ring road so there were plenty of fireworks to be seen. Even just walking down the road at around midnight, people were laying reels of firecrackers in the middle of the roads and setting them off. FYI, firecrackers are the loudest things ever. Harry set some off and was left nearly deaf for a good while after.
During Chinese New Year it is tradition for family and friends to get together, eat, drink and be merry. I’ve definitely eaten more than my fair share of food this holiday. I’ve had about three hotpots in the space of two weeks (and if anyone’s had hotpot before, you’ll know the effects it can have on your body!). The home cooked food we had one New Year’s Eve was delicious and I’ve been told we won’t be able to order this in the restaurants, so I’ll just have to hope for another invitation (*hint hint*). Also, during the holidays, or any meal out actually, I’ve found that Chinese people don’t follow the term “less is more”, here more is definitely more, and more than that is even better!
Call me a wimp if you will, but I now know my drinking limits and I know that báijiǔ (China’s drink of choice, it has a very similar taste to petrol mixed with bleach) and my body do not mix well, at all! That being said, I’ve seen more bottles of báijiǔ consumed these last couple of weeks than ever before. During our first meal in Shèhóng, every family member must have cheersed every other family member (and us) countless times. I cheersed with whiskey and coke instead, but Harry stepped up to the challenge and cheersed in a traditional Chinese fashion, with báijiǔ. Chinese drinking culture seems a lot like the Irish one… Only the next day, rather than sleeping off an unavoidable hangover, they go out for a big lunch and do it all again!
So, Chinese New Year can be pretty exhausting, leaving some people in need of another break just to recover. But, unfortunately, everyone needs to go back to work or school sometime! (Unless you’re me, then you still have another couple of weeks off of uni)
Have you ever spent Chinese New Year in China? Or how does your home country celebrate it? Let me know in the comments below :]