As many of you know, it is now (Officially) the Year of the Horse. Chinese New Year follows the Lunar Calendar and we here in China have been enjoying a much needed week long holiday!
For those of you who have never been in China for this holiday it’s an experience to behold. Think of all our normal America holidays pilled into one week of festivities. As the New Year is a very family oriented and traditional holiday, most people in China head home this time of the year. Our family was no different and we spent the whole holiday at my in-laws house.
We went back a few days early to get things in order and help with preparations. There is a lot to do but one of the biggest most time consuming, was making thousands of dumplings, or in this case ‘huntun’ (that would be ‘wanton’ in bad American Chinese). Why so many you ask? Wonderful question, keep reading.
On New Year’s Eve we hung up the “dui lian” which go up on either side of the door and also on the top lintel. These are usually little bits of poetry dealing with that particular year (in this case the horse) and are meant to bring fortune to the home. Usually my brother in-law takes care of this as he is the youngest member of the family but this year my son got to help too which was great fun to watch.
On “New Year morning” we all went out to visit all the relatives and this time red envelopes (Hong Bao 红包) and candy and cookies were given to all the kids, which in this case is anyone who isn’t married yet. Because we had Bruce with us we ended up carrying home bag upon bag of goodies. We would have given any trick-or-treater a run for their money.
Also, like Thanksgiving all the relatives gathered at one families home for the big meal. So we ate massive amounts of food until we simply couldn’t eat any more. However, since my in laws all live in the same general area, after stuffing ourselves at one home, the next meal was at the next relatives house and so for 5 days we just kept on eating. The thing about meals in China is that you don’t get your own plate. The table just gets filled with small plats so that everyone can get a taste of all the different foods. Which mean by the time the food stops coming to the table there is literally a mountain of dishes (fish, meatballs, smoked pork, cured ham, cold beef cuts, roasted mutton, 4 or 5 types of tofu, 10 different kinds of vegetables, 3 different kinds of soup, at least 2 dishes made with sticky rice, etc) that could not possibly be finished by the already bulging 12 people that are sitting around the table. And just when you think it’s over and nothing more could fit on the table (and certainly not in your belly) out come those dumplings… a bowl for every person.
When we finally took a break from eating (after dark) and before we went to bed we watched fireworks. Hundreds of fireworks that went on and on until dawn, and then turned into the mile long chains of black cats that brat-a-tat-tatted for ages and ages. Pretty much the fireworks were going off when ever people weren’t eating. During the day they were just loud poppers that would start at one neighbor’s house and as they finished there would be echoed by a different neighbor, then by someone up the road. And at night the sounds were joined to explosions of color sprouting from between buildings and behind houses, launched from any flat surface that could be found. Standing on the balcony of my in-laws’ house looking out over the lake you could see them for miles in every direction; each little hamlet, every town, every city fireworks as far as the eye could see. And yes, we joined in as well.
Fireworks at the neighbors’ house! At least they really know how to put on a good show!
And Grandpa Wu had to out do the sparkler by letting my son hold the Roman Candle… much to my own chagrin.
So after a week of “vacation” I think I am really ready for the vacation to begin. Then again, I have to go back to work on Monday, so I had better make the best of the weekend. Happy Year of the Horse…. I hope 2014 is great for all of you!