Chinese new year is the biggest holiday in Asia. It's the equivalent to Christmas in the west. The most important tradition for Chinese new year is to unite as a family. People will travel many hours just to be back with their family at this time of year. And everyone travels! A friend shared this article that included this picture of the Chinese new year migration.
Because EVERYONE travels this time of year, train tickets are scarce. The train stations do not sell a ticket more than ten days in advance of the trip. So if you are planning to be gone longer than 10 days, as was the case with a friend of mine, you must buy your return ticket during your vacation. She almost didn't get a return ticket! And then when you do get on the train, it is PACKED! I've been seeing my neighbors pulling wheeled luggage to the bus stop, on their way to the train station.
When we go outside, all of the shops are closed down for the week. The only stores that are open are the big ones like Walmart, and even that is closed today; New Year's day. I really miss the noodle shop nearby, and the steamed meat bun shop just down the street from the noodles. I miss the vegetables sellers in the building behind my apartment complex. I miss the other convenience shops just outside our gate. But I have to say that I don't miss the crowds and the traffic! It is kind of nice to have a little peace and quiet.
Tradition says that everyone should clean their houses before New Year's day, and prepare all of the food that will be cooked. I don't know the meaning behind it, but tradition says that they shouldn't use a knife (cleaver) on New Year's day. It is probably something like, "You will cut off your luck" or "You will cut your life short" or something like that. But I don't know how many people strictly follow those old traditions. My cleaning lady, Ling Ling, will be quite busy for the next few days. Her father passed away last year, so by tradition, all of those who came to the funeral should come to her house and pay their respects. She doesn't have to feed them, thank goodness, but she does have to receive them. She said there will probably be about 1,000 people come to her house.
Chinese have a tradition of putting red banners on each side of the door frame. On them will be some blessings written in calligraphy. They will have written things like, "Long life", "Prosperity" etc. I am reminded of the Children of Israel who put blood on their door frames to keep the destroying angel away. I didnt' buy any for my door, but somewhere I have a nice "blessing" sign to put on the front of the door.
Last night one of the young girls I meet with weekly called me to wish me a Happy new year. She asked me if I would be watching the new year festival celebration show on television. I told her that we get Australian television, so probably wouldn't have that channel. She seemed to think I would really be missing out. It was very cute of her to call. She called all the way from her "ancestral home", where her family is spending the holidays. Very cute.
Although this isn't a holiday that is very meaningful to me, I feel so happy when I see the families out walking together, enjoying some free time. They work so hard all year long, and they deserve this vacation time to really focus on their family. This celebration goes on for about 40 days. The Chinese work so hard all year long, they really deserve this.
Happy new year to you all! 新年快樂