Everyone knows Chinese New Year, aka Lunar new Year, aka Spring Festival is the most important holiday in the Chinese culture. You might have seen the photos depicting tens of thousands of Chinese stranded at train stations all over the country, trying to get home before the holidays start. Sadly, some of them will not make it home, for various reasons…Most citizens get a week off work and for many, this is the only time off they get in an entire year. I’ve been told time and time again how significant, family-focused and generally special this time of year is for every Chinese. This year, however, I’ve noticed a change…
Two years ago, right after arriving in China, I had the pleasure of being part of my OH’s family’s celebrations. Tens of relatives travelled from all over the country to spend few days together playing majiang and eating (and doing literally nothing else,apart from perhaps endlessly eating sunflower seeds and spitting the shells all around them!). It was boring as hell for me but even I could see how important this event was, if only to get the family together.
Last year my OH and I spent Spring Festival in Singapore and Malaysia but we didn’t miss out on the celebrations as both those countries have large Chinese minorities and there were performances and decorations aplenty. You couldn’t NOT notice that it was Lunar New Year.
This year we’re going away again (I was preparing myself for some of the most miserable and boring days of my life when suddenly it was my OH who clearly took pity on me and decided we should go away-after not-so-subtle hinting on my side) but before we depart I wanted for my husband to experience at least some of the holiday atmosphere. I’ve tried to find shows, performances, events we could witness but with no success. Either there really is nothing going on in Guangzhou at this time or I completely missed it. I’m baffled.
Last weekend we did manage to see a short but very pleasant musical performance in the Taikoo Hui shopping mall but apart from that, there has been very little organised for the occasion. I’ve looked around the major shopping malls and parks and was shocked to notice that these locations, visited by so many on a daily basis, presented very modest displays and decorations to mark what is surely a very important holiday.
Perhaps I’m approaching this from a wrong angle-I’m seeing the whole situation through the prism of the mayhem that is Christmas in Europe and, I suspect, in the States. The fairy lights, the baubles, the cheesy songs played over and over in all the shops. Ok, there’s plenty of the latter but almost none of the other stuff or its Chinese equivalents. Husband claims the times are changing and even a holiday like Lunar New Year is now becoming simply an opportunity to go away, travel abroad. Indeed, I can confirm that the flight prices had gone through the roof in the run up to holidays, which clearly indicates the growing demand. And with so many of the locals leaving the city to return to their hometowns and villages, making Guangzhou sleepy and quiet (love it!), perhaps the local shops/ authorities don’t feel the need to invest in lavish decorations, etc.?
Whatever the reason, change has come, there is no doubt about that. Take my OH’s family as an example. In previous years, as described earlier, they would all gather to celebrate together. This year, almost all of the younger relatives are travelling abroad with their families. Why? Because they can afford it and because this is quite possibly the longest time off work they get in a whole year. I’m not surprised and can hardly blame them and yet, as with any holiday which turns into a commercialised bonanza, I can’t help but feel a bit sad that the true spirit of the holidays is slowly but surely disappearing.
In case you’re wondering-husband and I will be celebrating Chinese New Year, while munching on thai green chicken pies and watching sunsets at St. Kilda / Sydney Harbour:)
P.S. A couple of photos from the celebrations held at ‘my’ school. It was a lot of fun.