The Chinese New Year (春节 – Chunjie) will soon be upon us. January 26 will see the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival as it is called in China. 2009 will be the Year of the Ox. The Year of the Rat will end, and not appear again until 2020..
Imagine every western holiday rolled into a week-long semi-hedonistic party. That’s Chinese New Year. Unlike the one day December 31st – January 1st western celebration, the Chinese New Year is traditionally a 14 day celebration. Mainland China has a “Golden Week” holiday, most of the country will be off work for the first week of the festival.
Most of the population of China will travel back to their hometowns and villages to celebrate the holiday. Chunyun (春運 or 春运 or the Spring Festival Travel period), features the world’s largest human migration. Over 2 billion people, Chinese and overseas Chinese, will travel during the forty day period surrounding Chinese New Year. Train, bus, and planes tickets are hard to come by. Standing room seats are sold on trains. My first Spring Festival in China saw me sitting on the floor of a train carriage for six hours until a seat opened up. Yes, uncomfortable, but strangely fun.
It’s not a simple holiday (nothing in China is simple). The preparations are intense, and each day of the festival different tasks must be undertaken. Fireworks, intense cleaning, new clothes, red greetings, lucky money, and special foods all make for extreme prep work
It’s the holiday of holidays. As western children dream of Santa and Christmas, Chinese kids dream of Spring Festival. It’s a staple of conversation for weeks before the event.
Over the coming weeks Asian Ramblings will bring you a blow-by-blow explanation of the holiday: The genesis, the customs, and the culinary delights. Stay tuned. Learn all you need to know about Chinese New Year. Amaze your friends with your profound cultural knowledge.
Xin Nian Kuia Le, or Happy New Year, as they say.