Lunar New Year, also referred to as the Spring Festival (春节), is one of the largest holidays celebrated in China. It’s a time rife with traditions, and often entails returning home to be with your immediate and extended family. Back in the US, I often celebrate the Lunar New Year by cooking for my friends, visiting Chinatown to watch the lion dances and other performances, and going home with my brother to eat with our parents. Festivities spill out into the days and weekends bookending the actual holiday: city permits play a role in determining street closings for Chinatown celebrations, class schedules and midterm dates dictated our free times to return home, and friends availabilities were something to consider when planning multi-course meals.
This year, life has seemed to stop and revolve around the Lunar New Year. Being part of Peking University has meant that the academic calendar is catered to Chinese festival dates, and so we’re given ample time off to celebrate the holiday which falls in the middle of the break between our semesters. Though I think it would have been interesting to ring in the Lunar New Year in the Mainland, I decided that I needed to get out of Beijing and have been traveling through Southeast Asia for the past three weeks.
I’m currently writing this post to all of you from Myanmar. I’ve got a lot that I want to write about this country and the different cities that I’ve seen thus far, but I thought I’d try to send some new years wishes out to everyone first. While the holiday is frequently referred to as “Chinese New Year”, it’s an important holiday for many people in different countries and ethnic diasporas. Officially, Myanmar does not celebrate the Lunar New Year (New Year in the Burmese calendar actually falls in mid-April), I was lucky enough to be in Yangon’s Chinatown to get a taste of what I’m missing back at home and in Beijing.
For a few basic Chinese phrases to share with you, to prove that I’m still studying even though I’m on vacation:
- Happy New Year: 新年快乐! Pinyin: Xīn nián kuài lè. A quick and easy way to wish a happy year ahead in Mandarin.
- Since my family is Cantonese, I’m more familiar with the phrase “Gong Hey Fat Choi”, or 恭喜發財.
Special traditions that are often observed during the New Year often include cleaning the kitchen before the new year begins (to appease the Kitchen God), buying new clothing (Chinese people pretty much invented the “New Year, New Me” phrase with this one), and giving Red Envelopes (红包 , or Hong Bao, are filled with lucky money and given to bring prosperity in the new year).
Wechat, a popular texting app used in Mainland China, has also brought some fun new takes on some of these traditions. I’ve loved sharing and receiving red envelopes with friends through the app, which can randomize the amount of money that is in different envelopes for friends in your groups. It becomes a bit of a game to see who can open the envelopes first, and who gets the most from a given envelope. Stakes are always pretty low, given that we tend to split 10-20 RMB (about 2-4 USD) between a group of 10-15 people, but it’s silly and a fun way to stay in touch with friends who have gone on different trips for the winter holidays.
Anyways, that’s all for me. 新年快乐！ Happy New Year,
P.S. According to the Chinese Zodiac, this year is the Year of the Rooster. When in Thailand, I encountered two GIANT plaster chickens and decided to get a photo with them. I’ve already posted it to Facebook but thought that I’d grace you with this one a second time, in case you’ve forgotten what I look like (or, more importantly – forgotten how good my puns are).
cock-a-doodle-doo! it’s time to stop monkeying around. I’ve got egg-cellent news: the year 2017 may have already ruffled your feathers, but a lil birdy told me that the year of the rooster promises not to be so fowl. Wish that I could be home with family and friends for the Lunar New Year, but sending my love (& paltry poultry puns) to all of y’all.