Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Year of the Rat

Ni Hao! Xin Nian Hao!
Hello! Happy New Year!

Well the Chinese zodiac has made it full circle, back to the start, the RAT! Last year, the year of the pig is supposedly good luck, but the year of the rat is also a good year to be having a baby.

We were in Beijing during New Years Eve. I have never experienced anything like it. All day kids were lighting off firecrackers. There was a gradual and audible crescendo of explosions up until midnight, when every hu tong (neighborhood) in our peripheral was a glow with every color and shape of bang. These were the type of fireworks you see at professional displays, from deep into the horizon to immediately outside of our apartment, the sparks bouncing off the facade. The fireworks stands were erected overnight, on almost every street corner, offering affordable fireworks to EVERYONE.

The celebration lasted well into the night, causing me on several occasions to jump out of bed running to the window clamoring "did you hear that one!?" Being somewhat of a pyrotechnic junkie, I appreciated the breadth and width of the displays; hundreds and hundreds going off simultaneously for hours and hours.

That was New Years Eve. Every night of the Spring Festival there were displays, with the finale on the 21st, The Lantern Celebration.

Other traditions for the New Year celebration are hanging red globe lanterns from every business and most residences. Cheesy rat posters and pictures that rival Halloween/Christmas decorations we are used to.

Another tradition is the handing out of hongbaos, or red envelopes or bags with crisp quai (cash) in it. Typically you give them to your children, grandchildren, and workers, such as drivers, Ayi's (nannies/maids), etc.


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