新年快乐!Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! January 23rd was the official Chinese New Year, and though the Year of the Rabbit left us feeling warm and fuzzy (I had to), the New Year of the Dragon has quite an exciting ring to it.

-Chinese Lessons!-

新 – xīn – new, newly

年 – nián – year

快乐 – kuàilè – happy, happiness

新 + 年 + 快乐 = New Year Happy! Or, uh, Happy New Year!

I returned to China a bit earlier than I was required to, mainly because I wanted to go on some adventures, but also because I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to spend Chinese New Year in China. What an opportunity it was! The Chinese New Year is famous for its tremendous fireworks displays – the Chinese did invent the firework, after all.

I had originally dreamed of watching the fireworks from a remote Chinese village or beach where the weather was a bit warmer, but with all of the drama surrounding my passport and visa, I am Shanghai-bound until the 31st of January.

I will say…I have never seen anything like this in my whole life! A few of you Kentucky folk may have seen Louisville’s fun event “Thunder Over Louisville,” which features a large fireworks show. I can assure you, this was much, much more than that. Fireworks were erupting everywhere you looked, in every possible direction. There were large, dramatic ones, full of color, lighting up the sky. There were little rocket-like ones that snapped a quick flash of light in the air, but were quickly followed by a noise capable of shattering an eardrum. There were sparklers that would dance around the ground and hiss. The whole experience was accompanied by a constant, vuvuzela-at-the-South-African-World-Cup-2010 thundering noise from the massive amount of fireworks exploding all around.  Its moments like these that you wish your eyes were made of sponges and that they could soak up everything you see like water, retaining it all. Its moments like these where you have to consciously remind yourself to blink – where there is simply too much magnificence to take in at once.

I took these videos of some of the fireworks from the balcony of my apartment. It is dark outside and my camera…well, leaves much to be desired, so the quality of the video is far from spectacular. If anything, you can hear the dull roar of the fireworks, and see the fireworks that show up. Keep in mind, the live show was much more impressive than this! Because I have to pay money to WordPress.com if I wanted to be cool and upload the videos directly to my blog, I think I will choose the free option and simply give you these links to my YouTube Account where you may watch them if you are interested.

Chinese New Year Fireworks 1

Chinese New Year Fireworks 2

Yes, the first one does involve a firework exploding in my face and my resulting high-pitched scream. And please, no applause for my award-winning videography. I’m an amateur, if you can believe it.

The Chinese New Year also involves lots of red. People decorate their houses with red zodiac-themed decorations for luck in the new year. Here is a picture of a New Years decoration in my own apartment. It is a poster of the character 福 (fú), meaning “good fortune,” turned upside-down to imply that the good fortune has arrived with the beginning of the New Year.

Pretty cool! You will see plenty of these lining the windows and doors of the houses in Shanghai. (I’m apparently no photographer, either).

Chinese New Year is extremely important here in China. When I arrived back in Shanghai on the 17th of January, many restaurants and shops were already closed because it is one of China’s biggest holidays for people to return to their home towns and be with their families. Fireworks were going off a long time before the actual holiday, and continue to go off hourly even a week later. Gradually, the shops and restaurants are beginning to re-open, but many will stay closed until the end of February or beginning of March. It is a little inconvenient as a foreigner, but you have to respect this time the hardworking people of China have to rest. Because people are traveling between their places of work and the towns of their families’ homes, New Years is a booming time for the transportation business. Bus, train, and plane ticket prices are surging this month and the availability becomes less and less the closer the date to before or after the 23rd. But that won’t be stopping me!

Stay tuned, for in two days I am leaving on a jet plane (don’t know when I’ll be back again~~) for China’s southernmost city, Sanya, on the island of Hainan – and from there, who knows? In any case, I am so excited to see parts of China that are perhaps more authentic than Shanghai (in terms of China-ness) and to use the language skills I have acquired to adventure around the country. This could be the most exciting part of my entire year here! I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

What an amazing experience, to celebrate Chinese New Year in one of China’s greatest cities. There are only more amazing days ahead.

As always, be sure to post any comments, questions, or suggestions for future posts. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be seeing you – on the beach!

 

Namaste,

Hallie

 

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