This Westerner’s First Chinese New Year


This post was originally published in 2008
It may contain stale & outdated information. Or it may have grown more awesome with age, like the author.

If manliness is measured by the amount of foreign festivals one has experienced, then last Thursday I became entitled to a bushy lumberjack beard, as this was the first day of Chinese New Year. I’m not going to wear a lumberjack beard though, to Yvonne I’m hairy enough, simply because of my race. A lumberjack beard would be too much, I’ll save it for the future, in case I ever need to “spice things up”.

Uh, New Years. Yeah it started with dinner, there were dinners in the middle, and it ended with dinner. There were a lot of dinners, and every night was filled with explosions.

The first night, we had dinner at home. Apparently the food was a kind that is only eaten at New Years. As I am foreign, however, for me it was no more or less exotic than the other food I’d eaten. It did taste nice though.

The next day we went to one of Yvonne’s relative’s houses for dinner. As it was New Years, I was allowed to drink beer without being called an alcoholic by Yvonne. Again, the dinner was nice. On the way to the relative’s house we walked through Shanghai’s industrial zone, and I was impressed by the seriously high roads. Really high roads, like 50 m high. Crashing off one of those would be certain death. As we were waking under it, it didn’t happen. I took a bunch of photos of the roads, to prove I’m not making this up.

We had some other dinners as well. At a dinner with Yvonne’s Dad’s side of the family, there was Chinese Whiskey. According to Yvonne’s Dad, I am good at drinking. I tell them this is because drinking heavily is part of western culture, and that by our standards I am a cheap drunk. Thinking back, maybe this was offensive to them, since they said I was good at drinking, and I said that actually I wasn’t. Maybe they think that I think that they are bad at drinking, and because I said that drinking heavily is part of western culture, maybe they think that we think that people who can’t drink very much are somehow lacking? Maybe I’m just mental, and the only one who considers things like this.

What else happened? Fireworks. More fireworks than I’ve ever heard at one time. Sounded like we were in the middle of an artillery barrage. Fireworks we can get in New Zealand and pathetic. Here one can buy (cheaply) any type of firework one wants. The most popular was what I call “Death Box”, or a 40 cm x 50 cm x 40 cm cardboard box with a fuse. One lights the fuse and takes cover. About 20 seconds later, a succession of popping noises can be heard, followed by a reddish streak rising into the sky (hopefully, anyway – I saw some explode on the ground), then exploding. I question the logic of packaging so many individual bombs in such proximity.

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We leave for New Zealand tomorrow.

China has been fun, I look forward to coming back next year.

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