Today marks the start of the year of the Rabbit according to many Asian culturesso i want wish you all a great lunar new year! me hope it brings you all the luck, success, fun, money, good health, quality time with the people you love, sex (hopefully quality too), and whatever else you dream of having.
You know that this was the first year i actually celebrated chinese new year in china, so I want to take this opportunity to tell you how my experience was. So yes, today I’m not going to talk to you about fields of view or frames for a second, but about fun and food… which are much more interesting. The life of the travel blogger is much more pleasant than that of the VR blogger, maybe I should consider changing my profession 🙂
Before telling you my experience I just want to explain that China is a huge and heterogeneous country, so the experience I lived may be different from that of other people you know in the country. I’m in Qingdao, which is on the eastern side of the country, also quite north, and I’m sure things in other cities like Shenzhen, which is in the far South, might not be quite the same. So don’t take my experience as an example of what happens in all of China… it’s just my experience.
My expectations for the Chinese New Year celebrations were the same that years of American movies had given me. In many films, the main characters are in the Chinatown of a large American metropolitan city, at the time when there are celebrations for the new year. And in these sequences, I could always see many people cheering in the streets while there were many red lanterns in the sky and performers creating long dragons that move around, while some ritual songs play in the background. I was particularly curious to see the dragon show. And I’m still wondering because none of that happened.
The festivities here were much different than I expected. First of all, I understood that most of the time, it’s just about spending some quality time with the people in your family. It’s not about partying, or things like that, it’s more about coming home, preparing the parties with your family, cooking with them, eating with them and just enjoying your personal relationships. It’s not even about doing crazy things with your family, like bungee jumping, it’s just about being together. It’s a bit like Christmas for us Italians: you stay with your loved ones, you eat a lot, and you give gifts to each other. I gave good food to my hosts, and they gave me the cute rabbit toy you see in the profile picture. And just like in our Christmas, public activities are not paramount. I asked about the dragon show and was told that sometimes the city of Qingdao organizes some public events for the new year, but not every year, and usually, dragons do not play a major role here. Damn, this shattered my dreams.
Then, I got that food is also very important. When I arrived at the house in the early afternoon, the parents of the family started making me taste some Chinese food that is not usually available abroad. I know some Chinese, but I’m not good enough to be able to carry on a whole family conversation, so wherever I didn’t know what to say, I just ate things. As they talked a lot, and I understood very little, I just spent the whole afternoon eating a lot. I had already eaten enough by the time dinner was ready, and it was full of delicious homemade Chinese food, that I ate until my stomach exploded. While I was recovering from this effort, someone asked me “Do you want some sweets?”. I literally exploded, but I’m Italian, and I can’t say no when someone offers me sweet food. So I used my secondary stomach dedicated to desserts to eat amazing cakes.
I was literally like a pufferfish, lying on the sofa with my two stomachs exploding when the daughter of the family told me “now we are making dumplings”.
No, seriously, I wanted to invoke the Geneva convention to avoid preparing the pasta. But it’s a traditional thing of the families of Northern China, and saying wouldn’t be offensive enough, so I helped them make the dumplings. I was hoping we could just make them and leave them on the table as decoration, but the next steps were to cook them and eat them. So I got a full plate of meatballs, which were amazing. Yesterday I thus discovered that I also have a third stomach dedicated to dumplings. Which is a good thing and could prove to be still useful in the future.
Back to the couch, I thought that all the food I ate that day could be used to solve world hunger. And after a while, I got a new question: “Do you want to eat some fruit?”.
Turns out the only dragons I saw were the ones in my guts all night.
Another thing that struck me was the fireworks. All evening there were people exploding firecrackers, fireworks and other similar things, in all parts of the city. Looking out the window, I could see that in whatever direction I looked, there was someone in that part of town exploding something. We also set things on fire to celebrate the new year in Italy, but that was on another level: fireworks everywhere, all night. When I went out to light some sparklers too (to avoid eating for 10 minutes), there was a constant noise of explosions… it was like being in a war zone. I was told that indeed, the level of fireworks was still underwhelming compared to five years ago… and if that’s depressing, I can’t imagine the bombings going on in the past. I was told that making explosions is a traditional thing to ward off evil spirits for the new year, so it’s all part of the festivities.
Something I didn’t expect at all was the people lighting fires on the sides of the street and burning special paper to remember their ancestors and send some sort of gift to them. There is a special day dedicated to this celebration, but many people here still performed this ritual on New Year’s Eve because it is a very important day. I didn’t take a photo so as not to disrespect this intimate moment, but it was anyway something quite unique for me to see, especially since the taxi that sent me back home had to avoid some of them.
The TV was set on CCTV 1, which is the main TV channel here. There was a television program dedicated to the new year, with some funny sketches, some traditional songs, and ballets. The problem is that it’s already hard for me to understand Chinese, and this show didn’t even have subtitles, so I was like completely lost. I looked at the pictures most of the time, but even here I didn’t see any dragons. Damn, they really wanted to make it difficult for me. But in the whole show, I managed to get one joke, so at least I laughed. This was a net positive, because I’m afraid that laughing too much might make my belly explode, so not understanding anything saved my life. In Italy, when we celebrate the solar new year, we usually have a timer showing the time on the screen all the time, but it turns out that in the CCTV show they only start counting down when it’s -10 seconds from midnight. I was completely calm when OHMIODITES 10SECONDS SNOWED DOWN. It was like when firemen hear the bell and they have to hurry and go to put out some fire. Emergency mode activated: I had to get ready to celebrate right away.
At midnight I cheered up a bit. I decided to taste the Chinese baijiu liquor that I had been told about in the past by some of my friends that tastes like gasoline. Taking a sip from a bottle of it bought at the supermarket, I can confirm that it tastes like petrol, and considering the price of fuel these days in Italy, I think we should consider it a valid substitute to put in our cars.
At the end of the day, I can tell you that spending the lunar new year here was a pleasant experience. Completely different from what I expected, it was more personal and intimate than one of crazy fun, but I feel happy to have lived it. And with this warmth in my heart, I wish you again a wonderful Chinese new year and a happy Sunday! And I hope you see some dragons too…
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