Friday, February 26, 2010

Chinese New Year - still celebrating!

We're nearly there! After all the build up and excitement before February 14th, the start of the Chinese New Year, it will soon be day 15, which marks the official end of the "tiger" celebrations.

And thank goodness. No more paying high prices for vegetables and fruit. No more dumpling making and dumpling dinners. No more crowding in the parks to see the temple fairs, and 50 yuan (7USD) charges if you want to park your car nearby.
No more deafening fireworks and firecrackers which keep you up after midnight or wake you up at dawn (especially on the fifth day, 'po wu', when it seemed everyone rushed out to be the first to get up and let off fireworks in the early moming!). No more forgetting what the date is since during this period we count the days starting from February 14th, which is 'chu yi' or '1st day of the month'.

Of course it has been fun in many ways.

We decorated our flat with papercuts and flowers, including fragrant narcissus which have bloomed throughout the holiday.
It was a good time for me to get together with my family, not just brothers and sisters, but also uncles, aunts, cousins and their children and children's children, who call me 'yeye' or grandad! Each kid was particularly excited to see me and other relatives because each one expected a 'hongbao' or red packet with money.
Thank goodness each family only has one child! I don't mind because one day when I really look like a grandad they will be giving me 'hongbao'!

There was time to play cards with friends and relatives. Driving around was a pleasure with few cars on the road, except near each temple fair.
You can see some interesting things at the temple fairs, some even get up your nose! The shopping malls were all open and decorated with lots of red colour.
I bought a new hat to welcome the spring - don't I look cool, haha (but it doesn't match my new coat I showed you last month)! And of course, when it was too cold to go out, there was lots of TV, and lots of repeats of old and new spring festival gala shows.

For those of you who like numbers, here are some taken from the "Global Times":

90 � number of fires caused by fireworks from New Year's Eve to the fifth day of the Spring Festival
347 � number of injuries caused by the fires
960 � number of cameras in Beijing's 11 parks watching out for firework accidents
2,200 � number of security guards prepared to prevent firework accidents in Beijing's 11 parks
79.69 tons � firecracker remains cleaned up on the morning of Near Year's Day
730,000 � number of police sent out to prevent accidents and control fireworks on Feb 18, the fifth day of the Spring Festival
200,000 � number of people returning to Beijing on Feb 18
1,500 � number of trays of dumplings sold by Huifeng Traditional Beijing Restaurant on Feb 18
300,000 yuan � turnover in one day at Gushengli Barbecue, Ditan Temple Fair during the first five days of the Festival
35.9% � sales increase in Beijing's restaurants on Spring Festival eve
621 � number of ambulances sent out on Feb 13 and Feb 14
563 � number of emergency medical technicians travelling around to give medical treatment on Feb 13 to 14
288 � number of injures caused in total on Feb 13 and Feb 14
Temple fairs
25,000 � number of visitors Ditan temple fair welcomed on Feb 13, the first day it opened
66,000 � number of visitors Changdian temple fair welcomed on Feb 14, the first day it opened
80,000 � number of tourists attending Chaoyang Park International Temple Fair on Feb 15
50,000 � number of visitors Shijingshan Temple Fair welcomed on Feb 15
Tourist attractions
166,500 � number of visitors Beijing's 19 most important tourist attractions welcomed on the first day of the Spring Festival
60,000 � number of pilgrims visiting the Lama Temple on Feb 14

Feb 28th marks the Lantern Festival (and further eating, this time of round dumplings called yuanxiao).
Wouldn't you like to taste those delicious balls (made of glutinous rice powder with a sweet filling)? I can save some for your next visit, if you like.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy New Year of the Tiger!

In case you didn't know, the Chinese New Year starts on 14th February this year. If you are 36 or 48 or 60 (or other multiples of 12) years old this year, then it's your year, Tiger! Join such famous people as Marco Polo, Beethoven and Marx, and be prepared for lots of good fortune, energy and power, as well as 'virility, prowess and cunning', as shown by theTiger Man, courtesy of Utopia.  
Like Christmas in the West, this is a time for family reunions. Out-of-town workers have been going home since the start of the 40-day travel season end of January.

That's why there have been long queues at main railway stations to buy tickets, and even more pushing and squeezing to get on a train. It is estimated that 210 million train journeys and 29 million plane trips will be made in the 40 days, that's almost the whole of the population of the USA on the go! Luckily I just have to drive my car for less an hour to get to my old family home.
Also like Christmas, it's a time for eating, eating and eating! I've already had several dinners and reunions with friends and relatives whom we don't normally have time to meet during the rest of the year. I've also made several shopping trips to local markets and supermarkets to prepare for eating and cooking at home.

Every family will make dumplings, whereas the richer ones will splash out on a banquet at a restaurant. However, although business will be brisk, the owners, as well as flower and chocolate sellers say it's a disaster for them that Valentine's day is also at this time.

According to the fortune tellers, it's not a good year for marriage, this year being a so-called widow year, so there has been a last minute rush to get married in the old bull year. If you didn't make it in time, you'll just have to live in sin and/or keep up the Valentine romance for the rest of the new year. And if you're lucky (or unlucky) enough to be single, and you're looking for a mate, then beware of those tigers (and tigresses)out there, especially the beautiful young 24-yr olds, they could be strong, aggressive and difficult to tame. 

New Year decorations and papercuts will be put up everywhere, with red being the favourite lucky colour of course. Even used coke cans have their uses, as the model of the China pavilion at the Shanghai Expo, beginning this May, shows.

Tigers can be seen in every shape and size. And my younger relatives are all waiting for me to give them red packets, hong bao, or lucky money.
This is my last blog for the old year, and I've covered a whole range of topics which I hope you have found interesting. Do let me know if there is anything you want me to tell you more about. I look forward to being in touch with you again in the new year.