Celebrating Chinese New Year
25.01.2009 - 26.01.2009
The Chinese New Year is based on a lunar calendar and this year the New Year starts on January 26th. It is the year of the cow or ox. The celebrations last about 2 weeks and just about everyone is off from work. Most people will go home during this time to see family so the travelling conditions are very crowded. Our group will soon be travelling to points beyond Beijing and will get to experience just how crowded the trains and buses can get.
On Sunday, January 25th, Ms. Xiao took me to get my residency papers. In order for me to stay in Beijing for an extended period of time, I need to be registered iwth the local governemnt. I have to carry these papers around with me all the time and produce them if asked. The procedure was very simple and I undestood none of it-I just smiled while Ms. Xiao dealt with the police.
On Sunday afternoon, my host family and I met up with the rest of Ms. Xiao's family who were in town for the New Year. We met at a restaurant and had Peking Duck which is a specialty in Beijing. Duck is roasted and then sliced table side. You take a rice pancake, place the duck, dipped in sauce, scallions and cucumbers and then roll the pancake up and eat it with your hands. It is very very good. The sauce makes it. Miles' grandma, grandpa, two uncles, one aunt, and two cousins along with myself and my host family were there for lunch. One of Miles' uncles lives in Newton and works at MIT. I talked with him through the dinner. It was nice to hear about the differences of Beijing and Newton and compare them with my formative opinions.
After lunch, we went back home for a rest and a nap to gear up for the evening's festivities. We drove in Mr. Zhang's car to his second apartment which is near the 5th ring road. Ms. Xiao's family was staying in this apartment as Mr. Zhang's first apartment is too small for all of these people. When we got to Mr. Zhang's second apartment, Ms. Xiao's family was ready to party for the New Year! Grandma and Miles' aunt were preparing a feast for us to sample traditional Chinese cuisine including lotus root and dumplings! Miles, his uncle and his cousins played Uno (High School Musical version-Miles is a HUGE fan) while we waited for the feast to begin. Miles' cousin, Jessica who is 6 won the game and I had a negative score at the end. The dinner was great and it was nice to eat home cooked food for a change as every meal before this except breakfast had been eaten at a restaurant. During dinner, there were toasts with wine to the New Year and everyone's good fortune. I made a toast thanking everyone for making my stay feel very comfortable.
After dinner, we watched the New Year's eve show on CCTV which is a collection of different acts including some that celebrate the minorities of China. All of them were spectacular and amazing. Anyhting that I did not understand, the Zhangs explained to me...this is true especially for the skits and comedy troupes. I explained these terms to Miles. We left at 10 and finished watching the CCTV broadcast at home. And at 12Am there was an amazing fireworks show as everyone in Beijing seemed to have saved their fireworks for this time.