Spring festival 2014 – Beijing

 

SPRING FESTIVAL – OR AS WE (I) 外国人 (FOREINGERS) CALL IT – THE BIG BOOM VACATION!

Why the big boom some might ask? it goes like this:
Imagine going out for a nice dinner, roaming the streets of Beijing (which are quite empty this time of year), everything is quiet and calm, and all of a sudden sounds of war surrounds you!
You look to the left! nothing! you look to the right! but wait.. no tanks are to be seen, no army man, so, what’s the fuss all about?

one of the "boom" shops

one of the “boom” shops

The locals bought fire crackers and fireworks at the local shop, and they are going all out with testing the new purchases!
They set up local boom shops every 200 meters or so.
So imagine yourself walking down the street, and everywhere around you people are popping those noisy fire crackers and fireworks, and I do mean everywhere!
In fact – even though I come out sarcastic and even a little angry some might say, I’m not.
There’s a crazy atmosphere here (in a good way), everybody’s happy and the city took up a festive look.
And as a “bonus” – the city is actually almost empty! which leaves us “outsiders” some empty streets and empty stores to roam at (although most of the places are closed – as the owners went back to their home town).

Now, after my Polish side “spoke his mind” – a little bit of the history:
The Chinese new year holiday goes way back, (over 4000 years back) and considered to be the most important holiday in the Chinese culture, and respectively it’s the biggest celebration.
The spring festival (also known as lunar new year) was actually originated by “fear”.
The legend goes that there was once (and still is) a mythical lion like monster named Nian (年) – also means ‘Year’ in Chinese, and this monster used to go from village to village and ruin everything, cause mayhem and sow fear into the locals.
Then, a wise old man came to the villagers and advised them that Nian is actually afraid of the color red* and dislikes noise.
So the villagers took his advise and started hanging red wraps and rolls on their houses and doors, and started beating the drums and blowing firecrackers – that worked and Nian was not seen since ;).
So now – every time the second new moon, after the winter solstice hits – the booms are to be heard all throughout China and “the area” (see below**).

The holiday is time for Chinese families to get together and have the annual dinner (dumplings) and to “cleanse” the house from bad vibes and make room for good incoming luck.
They also give away money (usually to youngsters) in red paper bags – called “Hongbao” ( 红包).

*The color red in Chinese tradition is to drive away evil spirits and to bring good luck

**The festival is not being held in mainland China alone, but in Hong KongTaiwanSingaporeThailandIndonesiaMalaysia, MauritiusPhilippines and China Town’s all over the world.

Now – for us – the foreigners – this holiday was a blast..!
Imagine having an entire city as “your” playground..! walk down the street without having to push your way, going to parks, restaurants and almost no people..!

Have a good one!

Adam Disatnik

I have been living in China since early 2013 in the great Beijing. I try to travel as much as I can and try to understand the culture and the habits as much as possible. It's amazing how much can be learned about China, and about life, while living abroad in a totally different country than the one you grew up in. I love it! Catch up on my blog to try and understand along with me:) Adam.

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1 Response

  1. Amir Klein says:

    Wow, man, I never heard that story before! that’s so cool! so now everything (well, not EVERYTHING… but almost) makes sense – the noise, the red color everywhere, and even the word “Nian”!

    I guess that for someone who’s never been to China, the description of an empty city here would be quite unsatisfying.. you have to live in Beijing to actually understand the experience Adam is describing here.. a city of over 20 million people is emptied out in one blow. that’s mind blowing! but if you’ve never been to china, the chance to really understand the feeling is not big.. I love this holiday, anyway. Such a great atmosphere all around!

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