A few words about Chinese New Year…First of all, it’s technically inaccurate to call it Chinese New Year (even though, everybody does) since it’s celebrated by Koreans, Indonesians, Japanese, Mongolians, and a host of other Asian peoples in addition to the Chinese. But here, it is more commonly referred to as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. And well, it’s kinda a big deal. I’d say it’s definitely the equivalent to a U.S. Christmas and New Year’s complete with presents, vacation days, family gatherings and tons and tons of food—only instead, of Christmas cookies, candy canes, turkeys and ham, they like to feast on sunflower seeds, fruit, nuts and dumplings (and you wonder why Americans are so fat.) Oh and I mentioned the fireworks in my previous post, but let me just reiterate the fact that NOBODY does fireworks like the Chinese. They’ve been shooting them off for TWELVE DAYS STRAIGHT NOW…morning, noon, and night…all hours of the night…and early, ungodly hours of the morning…Crack! Pow! Hiss!…Whistle! Snap! Pow!...Boom! Bam! Apocalypse! I wake up with shell shock. I don’t even need a freakin’ alarm clock anymore!
But despite, my mild irritation with waking up to the soothing sounds of firecrackers in the morning, there is definitely something sublime about watching sparklers, crackers and roman candles snap, crackle and whiz through the air amongst a thousand others as far as the eye can see and the ear can hear. During New Year’s, I and a few other teachers from my school stayed with the family of one of our Chinese co-workers. Our host informed us that as part of the Chinese New Year tradition we would all partake in three very important New Year’s traditions: we would prepare the New Year’s Eve dumplings (which were DI-VINE!), we would light the New Year’s Eve fireworks, and we absolutely HAD to watch the New Year’s Eve Concert special on CCTV-1 because EVERYONE in China watches it ( fyi, in China, there are about 50 channels all entitled “CCTV-something” because the government owns ALL the Chinese networks.) Shortly before the clock struck 12, we headed outside and pranced around with sparklers in our hands like a bunch of giddy eight-year-olds on the Fourth of July. And at one point, I just stood there mesmerized by the green and pink explosions that seemed to speckle every corner of the sky. And as I watched the dozens of sparkles etch up to the tops of high-rise buildings all adorned with big and small red lanterns, I couldn’t help but thank God for allowing me to be alive in that moment…to get a glimpse of humanity from a world away…to watch people fellowshipping, feasting and celebrating the precious gift of life. You can change the names and faces, but I believe the overriding theme of holidays everywhere is celebrating the gifts God has given you...and to Him, I am forever grateful for the gift of my experience here in China. Xin nian kuai le, everyone!