小年快乐！(Xiao nian kuai le!) (Happy Little New Year!) This is it, the beginning of two weeks of unending fireworks. I had been warned about this from other foreigners who have been in China over a year, and from my dad who was in Shanghai two years ago at the tail end of the New Year, but I had never quite understood what they meant until this evening.
Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival) is the biggest holiday in China. The entire country shuts down for two weeks, and, as far as I can tell, sets off fireworks basically the entire time. In recent decades, China has also adopted January 1 as a holiday, and we even got a few days off for that, but the traditional New Year is the real celebration. The New Year dates change every year because it is based on the lunar calendar.
Traditionally, Chinese New Year was the time to honor ancestors as well as deities. In modern times, it is common for families to gather together for a “reunion” dinner. Since the New Year acts as a sort of clean slate, people signify this by cleaning their houses, buying new clothing, and decorating with red paper and other signs of “wealth,” “luck,” and “prosperity.” In Chinese culture, a prosperous life means a good marriage, many children (one child in modern China), a good job, and great wealth.
Tonight marks 小年 (xiao nian) or Little New Year, a week before the official holiday, and with it, the fire works. A few days ago, I noticed tents selling fireworks starting to appear on my street. There are three of them on my five minute walk to my bus stop. In the past week, I’ve heard a firework here and there, but around 5PM tonight hundreds of fireworks began to go off, and it has been constant for the past four hours. And these are the big kind too, shooting high into the air, sometimes only 100 feet from my window. Its actually really cool to be on the 16th floor at a time like this–I have a great view of the fireworks.
As is traditional, I ate a meal of 饺子(jiaozi) or dumplings, even though they were the frozen in a bag kind. I also made cornbread, which isn’t traditional, but that’s beside the point. Basically the entire country has work off for a week. My fruit and vegetable sellers have been slowly disappearing over the past few days, and the supermarkets have started to have limited hours. Both my roommate and I have seriously stocked our apartment with food to “get us through the week.” Traffic has increased to a horrible level downtown, doubling the length of bus rides and making it impossible to get a taxi.
Liz, who lives in Zhucheng, is going to stay the week with me while my roommate goes home. She’s taken a job in Qingdao, so she will be moving closer to me within the next month, which is exciting!
On Friday, I’m heading with my friends Sarrah and Stan to Beijing for three days! I’ll get to climb the Great Wall of China, which is right up there in my book with Stonehenge. I’m excited to get out of Qingdao for a few days and experience a new part of China.
Two of the key members of my band, Zach and Valerio, have moved to the Philippines and Italy respectively. It was sad to see them go, but here’s a picture of us after Zach’s last gig. Its been a lot of fun playing with these guys, and hopefully we’ll get to play together again soon.