It is Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival) and this year we are celebrating the year of the horse! It is one of the 12year cycle of animals in the Chinese zodiac. My neighbours and Chengdu, China residents are busy cleaning their homes inside and out. Mandarin orange trees, flowers, red lanterns, and good luck and good fortune signs are all around the neighbourhood. I felt that I needed to make our home look more festive too. So, I bought new red outside lantern light fixtures, some Chinese New Year decorations, and pretend firecrackers (to protect us from evil spirits). We can get real firecrackers at any of the many orange tents around town, but I will leave that to others! Then, we decorated the front of our house. Now, our house blends in with our Chinese neighbours and I feel much better!
In addition, Chinese people are getting themselves “ready” for the New Year with haircuts and new clothes. Plus, they are busy planning the menus for the many upcoming family meals. However, most importantly, many are preparing to journey home to be with their families. It is the largest human migration on the planet! All modes of transportation are packed – especially trains! For some parents (many migrant workers), it is the one time of year when they see their children who are often being raised by their grandparents. It is a very important time of year.
Part of the New Year festivities is giving a hongbao or red envelope with money to children and people who help you such as an “ayi” (housekeeper). It is customary to give an extra month’s salary to household helpers. If you do give a hongbao, it is best to give an even amount ending with the number eight. Avoid the number four at all costs because the number four in Mandarin and most Chinese dialects sounds like death.
You can sense the anticipation in the air and see all of the signs that businesses will be closed during Chinese New Year. From the stores that we frequent to the water delivery services (since we can’t drink the tap water), we have to stock up on supplies since many businesses will be closed from January 29th – February 4th, 2014 (or more). Chengdu looks and sounds festive with so many red lanterns all around town and the noise of random fireworks. Have a Healthy and prosperous year of the horse to you and your family! Xin nian kuai le!