Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快乐!

February 7, 2007 is the first day of Chinese New Year on the lunar calendar. It’s the Year of the Rat. A simple search can lead you to a lot of resources on Chinese astrology and traditions such as this one.

When I was little (maybe twenty something years ag0), materials were not abundant. The New Year celebration had its extreme significance back then. That was the time when each of us might get one piece of new clothing, which most likely was made with needle and thread by my mom. The beginning of the new year always invariantly falls into the winter. That dinner on the eve was always something we looked forward to because for the most of the winter, we fed on cabbages, potatoes, and preserved tomatoes — green vegetables were scarce in the northern part of China. My dad would put a feast on the table after a few days of preparation. And the days before the new year were the days when people do extensive cleaning of their houses too.

The annual New Year’s Gala on TV was not missed by anybody. It was always broadcast on New Year’s Eve. It gathered the top talents in China to put together a non-stop breathtaking performance. That’s where you would see all the top singers, dancers, comedians, acrobats, magicians within the few hours. The performance would be something people kept talking about for days and weeks. But by midnight, everyone went outside with fire crackers. The entire city would explode with non-stop fireworks.

We went to bed knowing that next morning there would be a little red envelope under our pillows. A few RMBs made a little girl very happy in those early years. Although we stayed up late at night, everyone would try to get up early the next morning — the first morning in the new year. Kids ran outside to show off their new clothes to friends. Adults would also put on their best clothing and go door to door to greet each other and wish each other the best in the new year. Everyone smiled at everyone else. It was a time of abundant happiness.

So many years have passed. I have moved across the globe to another country. Busy with work and other things, I have not made any plans to do anything special to celebrate the New Year. But that’s okay. Remembering the celebrations in the old days brought a smile to my face.

Wish everyone a prosperous new year!