It’s been an interesting week here in China. A few of you may have noticed that about a week ago people were announcing it is now the year of the Ram (or the goat, or the sheep, they just can’t seem to decide.) You probably only noticed if it’s your year on the zodiac, which I can’t blame you for, seeing as I was oblivious to last year being the Horse, which is mine. Anyway, yes, last Thursday, February 19th was Chinese New Year.
Even thought the Chinese use the same calendar as the Western World, in sticking with tradition they celebrate the New Year by the Lunar calendar. This means their traditional New Years celebration day varies, and while it may seem funny to us to celebrate the New Year in February, I’ll remind you America is still one of only five countries to cling to the Fahrenheit temperature scale (Canada would make six, but for them its supplementary) and one of only three countries that refuse to adopt the Metric system of measurement (the other two are Myanmar and Liberia.)
Celebrating Chinese New Year is not altogether different from our own New Years, though seeing as modern Chinese people celebrate both to some extent, I’ve started a petition to call the Chinese Holiday “New Year 2: New Year Harder.” The celebration itself seems to consist of gathering your family, visiting the only restaurant in the city that hasn’t closed for an expensive meal, and then taking turns with your neighbors setting off enough firecrackers to level an apartment complex.
You may think I’m exaggerating, but when I went to visit another ex-pats’ apartment on the night of the 18th, it felt like I was braving the happiest war zone on the planet. In their apartment, our small gathering of foreigners could hardly hear each other talking over what I’m assuming was an amateur re-enactment of Nicholas Cage and Michael Bay’s new film. That’s right, they love the Cage here.
You have to understand, these fits of revelry (which always include firecrackers) started a few days before the 19th, and have occurred sporadically ever since, at any given hour of the day or night. I noticed the city was up and running again a couple days after, and I expected Episode II: New Year Strikes Back to die down shortly. What a fool I am.
I was just informed yesterday, a week after celebrations began, that the Chinese New Year is celebrated through the day of the Lantern Festival. Since I’m assuming you don’t have a quick-reference Lunar calendar on you, just know that the lantern festival this year is on March 5th. Meaning the holiday season is set to last a solid two weeks. Before you start packing up to move to China, however, I should tell you it’s not a free pass, and the kids even start school again on March 2nd.
I’ll leave off by saying 新年快乐 (xin nián kuài lè, pronounced sheen knee-en kwai luh,) and happy year of the Ram! For those of you who are a ram/sheep/goat on the Chinese zodiac, you should know this will be an important year for you. Don’t get too excited, however, as your zodiac year is potentially a year of misfortune. You need to combat your incoming bad luck by wearing lots of red clothing, which is obviously the luckiest color.