This festival is as big in China as Christmas is for us. It is probably the most important festival here and 2021 sees in the Year of the Ox. Actually, it is interesting to learn that 2020 was the year of the rat & rat years are traditionally when bad things happen! So that year certainly lived up to its reputation!!!
We have decorated the library and I will be reading stories which feature cows (Ox stories being thin on the ground).
I have put as many red colored books on display as possible but noticed how many books do NOT have red on the front cover.
And we have our fun cows too
All over school decorations are appearing and I am dusting off this greeting (shin nee-an Kwai le)
The shops too have been gearing up since Dec and I love seeing all the red displays
Presents are not exchanged, instead money is given in little red envelopes (Hong bao) which feels really quaint and retro now that China is virtually a cashless society. We had to go and get cash out specially and it is quite a novelty to use a cash machine again. Hong bao are not just given to children but also to people who help you. So we will give our Ayi one and I will give to the ayis at school. Ayi (eye-ee) means ‘aunty’ and is a generic title for all domestic help.
We have an Ayi called Amy who comes in two mornings a week and she is amazing. She does the cleaning, ironing and is the best bed maker that I have ever come across. But with only two of us and a small apartment that doesn’t keep her occupied for very long so she also cooks Chinese food for us. This means that we eat local food twice a week and we have sampled a wide range of dishes. I particularly like her pork soup, the local specialty of egg and tomato and of course dumplings. In this picture I am teaching Amy how to make a shepherd’s pie as she is keen to learn how to make western dishes. Interestingly most Chinese homes do not have an oven and all cooking is done in pans.
Amy speaks good English and has been really helpful with the translation of official letters or collections from the post office and generally interpreting when we need it. She is one of our go-to people when we haven’t got a clue how to do things! I will miss having such help when I get back to Blighty. We have been spoiled rotten having her and I’m not looking forwards to picking up the domestic chores again.
Chinese New Year is usually the time of the world’s largest human migration as the population here travels home to spend time with families. Last year was when the virus hit and lockdown in China began in earnest. Many people had already traveled and got stuck back in their home villages. This year, the government is discouraging travel even between low risk areas. There have been 18 cases of the new British strain of the virus in the past few weeks and worryingly the incubation period seems to be 21 days rather than 14. Some firms are offering staff bonuses not to travel. I even heard of one company who will pay for couples to have a few nights in a hotel as a staycation as an incentive. So we will be staying put. However, local restrictions mean that there are parts of Shanghai that are now out of bounds.
Food and fellowship is a major component of the festivities. Meals out here are always lavish occasions. Just as in the west where we have work meals out before Christmas, Chinese celebrate with team trips to restaurants.
This type of tree hung with red packets signifing good fortune.
The traditional lion dance is to scare away the bad luck from the previous years. So this year the lions have a BIG job to do as 2020 was a mighty unlucky year world wide!!!
So Chinese New Year will be more subdued this year. Just like Christmas was for us. It’s a small price to pay to defeat this virus and we will bounce back to celebrate again in years to come.