Hello everyone! I’m writing today’s post from the beautiful and exciting China. I’m staying here in order to celebrate the Chinese New Year with my wife’s family. Even though I’ve been here a few times before, this is the first time I’m coming at this time of the year. I think it’s a great thing to see how different cultures celebrate, so needless to say I was really looking forward for this trip.
The lunar calendar has 12 animal years. Last year was the year of the monkey and we’ve just entered into the year of the chicken.
I was actually a bit confused because I thought it’ll be the year of the rooster. It turns out that in Chinese there’s only one word for this animal, irrespective from the gender. So I received some strange looks when I was asking whether it’ll be the year of the male or the female chicken. Actually if you think about it, it’s the same like when it’s the year of the dog. Nobody looks in between its legs. It’s just a dog 🙂
Anyway, I will just refer here as the year of the chicken, just like I hear it from all the Chinese.
Chinese New Year Traditions
As I learned there is no single, unified new year tradition in China. Customs can vary between the provinces.
My wife’s family lives in the southwest part of China. They started to prepare for new year’s eve days in advance. They bought traditional decorations (all red of course) that suppose to bring good luck for the whole year.
The day before we went to the local open market to buy ingredients for the dinner. For a European eye these markets might look somewhat strange. Especially the way the meat products are being stored (no fridge for starters) could raise some eyebrows, even if you’re not a qualified health inspector 🙂
At the same time especially the fruits and vegetables you can buy here are excellent quality (mainly comparing to the offer in the Netherlands where most of such things have to be imported).
By the way importation: In dedicated fruit shops you can find everything all year long. Now it’s January, but I saw for example big boxes of cherries imported from Chile, sold for around EUR 20 per box. It is especially a high price if you compare it to the price of local fruits, which are also excellent quality (I figured it out here that pomegranate is actually sweet). There is a clear demand for such kind of things, which shows that there is a part of the society which has strong consumption power (and it’s not only true for the big coastal cities).
Some things that we couldn’t buy at the local market were bought at Walmart. Yes, Walmart is in China and it’s probably the most popular supermarket chain. You can buy everything from local food to Danish cookies, Dutch milk powder, Scottish whiskey, Spanish ham etc. China clearly has a great role in global trade, and nowadays not just when it comes to export.
Chinese New Year Dinner
One of the highlights of the Chinese New year’s eve is definitely the dinner. As the meals are getting ready, they are placed on the dinner table. But nobody sit down yet. First those eat, who have already passed away.
Candles are lit, and ever passed away family member gets a bowl, chopsticks, a cup of tea and some local liquor. The men even get a cigarette which slowly burns in the ashtray.
During this ceremony the head of the family talks to the dead relatives and meanwhile empties the tea and the liquor in a separate bowl. This represents that they are actually being consumed.
The dinner itself is a huge feast. I couldn’t even count the number of different dishes that were on the table. Huge respect here to Mrs. Roadrunner, who was busy in the kitchen almost all day long. I generally love Chinese food and especially the spicy one that is quite common in the area where my wife’s family live. If your only experience about Chinese food is the fast food or takeaway one, I would strongly recommend visiting an authentic Chinese restaurant. They are not comparable to each other.
Fireworks and Firecrackers
During the Chinese New Year eve (it’s actually more correct to say lunar new year, as it is celebrated all across Asia) people start lighting up firecrackers already in the morning. You hear them all around the city and as the night is getting closer, you kind of feel like being in a war zone. Not just because of the constant sounds of explosions, but they also make quite a bit of smoke.
As it gets dark, the fireworks are joining a show. You can see them shooting up from everywhere and they really brighten up the night sky. As my in-laws live on the 19th floor, I even had an experience to watch the fireworks exploding from above 🙂
Later on I will upload some videos as well, but as I am writing from a non YouTube friendly place, I have to postpone it until my return to the Netherlands 🙂
On the first day of the new year, the whole city looks somehow like this:
New Year’s TV Show
I am really sorry about other channels, because I believe the New Year TV show on CCTV has about 100% viewing rate. The show is a kind of mixture of some spectacular performances (the quality is really extraordinary) and some kind of theater comedy.
As I don’t speak Chinese, the TV show was not the main attraction for me, therefore I spent my time by playing mahjong with some family members.
Even though everyone was quite full from all the dishes we ate during dinner, there is one more dish remaining. After midnight they prepare some freshly made dumplings. This also supposed to bring luck and happiness for the new year.
Many people also go and visit the temples after midnight in order to pray for health, happiness and wealth.. As everyone got really tired, plus as I heard they were expecting a few hundred thousand people to the park where the main Buddhist temple of the city is located, we have skipped this part.
Well, this is about my first Chinese New Year experience. Even though this is mainly a personal finance blog, I though you might be interested to read about it. Soon I will also write about everyday life in China as I see, plus how is it to write a blog from the other side of the Great Firewall of China. I will also try to give an overview on the current economic situation in China. I especially want to know what drives the housing price boom and how sustainable it is. Stay tuned!
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Disclaimer: This post or any other information on the site is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice or any other advice. I am solely sharing my idea, plan and progress on early retirement.