Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Spring Festival From the Outside

Yesterday, January 26th, was the first day of the first month of the Lunar year. The most important holiday of the year in China, the new year and Spring Festival have a number of traditions involved. Unfortunately, I haven't really been able to participate in any of these traditions, but I have observed some different behavior and scenes. On the 25th, Carrie, Travis, Karrin and I were in Guangzhou after flying back from Sanya late the night before. That day we went to a wonderful dim sum breakfast with one of Carrie's freshman and she then showed us around the city for a bit. The main visit of the day was to the main flower market near Beijing Lu. During spring festival families decorate their houses with flowers and bring flowers to others when they visit. Their is one specific flower having to do with 5 generations in a family that is one of the most common flowers during this time of year. I had never seen it before, and it is a strange sort of flower in that it doesn't blossom and you can't eat it. The flower market was filled with these, though orchids, lilies, gladiolus, and others were also there.

Also being sold along the market were pin-wheel type toys, bought and carried about by both children and adults. Decorations for Spring Festival also include red and gold posters of traditional phrases or images of plump children, and also never-ending knots. Red and gold-or yellow-are unavoidable during this time or year.

Also unavoidable this time of year are images of the Ox. This new year's animal, the ox is everywhere and everyone wants a picture in front of it-or rather all of them. I particularly enjoyed these grandparents and grandson posing in front of an Ox with winnie the pooh at the entrance to the flower market.

Yesterday, the new year, we arrived in Hong Kong. Most shops, restaurants, and business had closed for the holiday-usually new years and the following 2 days-but though much of the city was closed, the streets were still alive with activity. That, I think, is what I've enjoyed most about the New Year and Spring Festival-seeing families together. It is a common sight to see grandparents toting children around and spoiling them, but rarely do you see both parents-mother and father-walking leisurely with their child (or children). Tonight, the 27th we went to California Pizza Kitchen for a western treat and got to watch a spectacular fireworks show over the water. The feeling, the crowds were calm and quiet. No drunkenness, no rushing about, but rather families sharing the spectacle together. It is this sense of togetherness and the enjoyment in simply being together that has stood out most for me. The lunar new year and spring festival really are about family-being with your own and visiting others-and so as a foreigner here I have really only experienced the festivities from the outside, but I've enjoyed observing nonetheless.

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