Chinese New Year | 我的第一个春节

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After two full weeks of firecrackers, feasting, and a whole lot of red, the Chinese New Year, the biggest annual holiday in the Middle Kingdom, officially wrapped up a week ago. I’ve been back-and-forth between China and the U.S. since 2007, but this was the first time I spent the holiday season in Beijing, and I can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by all I experienced.

As all of you studying overseas know, the phenomenon of culture shock is not a myth.  At first, everything – from the food, the buildings, the customs, the language – all seems backwards and upside down. But, as with all else in life, after you get past the growing pains and come to a deeper understanding of something, it seems less strange, less foreign, and more easy to come to grips with.

So it was for me and the Chinese New Year (春节)

Leading up to the holiday season, I was schooled in the traditions of the holiday by my Chinese friends, and repeatedly told, “This is as important to Chinese people as Christmas is to Americans.”  It’s as much about family as anything else, they said. My American friends who had ridden the holiday out in China before gave me a different tone of advice: “It’s boring, man.  The whole city shuts down, and there’s nothing to do.” They said I best buy a cart-full of DVD’s or a stack of good books and hunker down until the city sparked back to life. 

I quickly learned that my American friends were not joking. When my University broke for the holiday, there was a mass exodus to a scale I’ve never seen. The campus transformed from a bustling, mid-size city unto itself into an eerily quiet ghost town. Likewise the migrant-built city of Beijing, which probably lost half its population when workers journeyed back to their hometowns to visit family. The subway lines emptied out, stores shut down, and fireworks began.

 The Spring Festival is the only time it’s legal to light fireworks in China, and the locals savored what time they had. Late into the night I’d hear the deep bark of firecrackers and the fizzle of colorful bursts lighting up the sky.  The best display came on New Year’s eve, the pinnacle of the festival, which also happened to be my birthday.

On that night, I joined my academic advisor, her family, and a banquet room full of other professors, officials and businessmen to celebrate with a traditional feast. We tore into big, steaming plates of dumplings, stuffed buns, boiled fish, braised lamb, and roasted duck, as the elderly professor sitting next to me talked about his childhood in central China, surviving for weeks on nothing but sweet potatoes, soy, and cabbage.

Etiquette was of the utmost importance. All the younger guests, including me, were expected to circle the table and toast, one-by-one each of our elders. We cheered with cups of fiery rice liquor and glasses of expensive French wine.  No harsh words or negativity was allowed, as it would set the year off on the wrong foot.

By the end of the night, after many toasts and much rice liquor, I was feeling warm and happy. Then the group, realizing it was my birthday, ordered a traditional birthday dish for me – a bowl of extra long noodles signifying a long life. I slurped the noodles and thanked the group, before heading out to catch up with a group of friends to watch fireworks over Beijing’s Hou Hai lake.

This experience, an intimate feast with a group of people I’ve known for only a year, makes me appreciate the genuine kindness and welcoming spirit that I have found repeatedly in China. When I think back on this Chinese New Year, it is this meal, the toasts, the traditions, the noodles, that will forever stand out.

 


 

通过两个星期的炮仗,盛宴,搭配着很多的红色,春节在上周告了一段落。自从2007年起,我来回从美到中了很多次,不过这还是我头一回在北京度过春节,所以这次经历让可以说令我非常震撼。

很多身在海外读书的人都知道,文化冲击并不是虚构的。当你刚刚接触一个文化时,几乎所有的东西-从食物,建筑,到礼节和语言-都显得无比的陌生。不过如同生活一样,当你经历过某些人与事后,你会慢慢的成长起来,然后你会觉得这些事并不是如此的陌生。

过春节对我来说就是一次很独特的体验

在过年的前一阵子,我的中国朋友教了我很多关于中国的过节传统,他们并且不断的嘱咐我,“春节在中国是一个非常重要的日子,就像美国人的圣诞节。”过年的时候人们都是以家庭为主,他们告诉我。我的在中国度过春节的美国朋友跟我说:“挺无聊的,兄弟。整个城市都荒无人烟,完全没有事情可做。”他们还建议我准备好大量的电影和书以免无聊。

我很快的意识到我的朋友还真的不是在开玩笑。在块要过年的那段时间,整个学校都变成了一个我从来没有见过的模样。整个校内都成为了一个安静的鬼城。北京城的人口也突然少了一半,所有的工人都回到了他们自己的家里。地铁也不再那么的拥挤,商店也挂上了不营业的招牌,烟火是唯一能够听到的声音。

那天晚上,我和我的学术导师还有她的家人和宴会上其他的教授、行政人员、商人们一起欢庆了这个传统节日。我们一起吃了蒸饺、面包、煎鱼、炖羊肉和酱鸭,坐在我旁边的老教授告诉我他的孩子在中国的中部只靠吃红薯,大豆和卷心菜度过了几个星期。

礼节在这里是最重要的。我和其他年轻的客人被要求绕着桌子向每个长者轮流敬酒。我们喝的是很烈的中国白酒和很昂贵的法国葡萄酒。在这里粗鲁的语言和不敬的行为都是不允许的,这样做可能让你在将来的一年里都走霉运。

这天的晚宴结束时,喝了很多酒的我感觉很温暖很开心,并且当人们意识到今晚是我的生日时,他们为我准备了一个传统的生日餐--一碗预示着长寿的长寿面。我囫囵吃下了那碗面条,并感谢了他们的好意之后,我又和朋友们去北京的后海参观了烟火表演。

这段和那些只认识了一年的朋友一起吃团圆饭的经历让我感受到了在中国感受到很多次的热情好客的传统。中国年、团圆饭、长寿面、中国的传统,这一切都是我永生难忘的。

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It has been 10 years since I last celebrated Chinese New Year with my grandparents in China. I always had to go to school during that time of the year. However, at least I get to celebrate it with my parents most of the time. This year they visited me for two week for Chinese New Year since I had to work. I consider myself very lucky for being able to do this with my parents almost every year because traditionally this is the most important festival and family members are supposed to get together. 

The Chinese Students and Scholars Association usually celebrations the two major Chinese Festivals, one being the Chinese New Year and the other being the Mid-Autumn Festival. This is for most of the Chinese Students here who would not get to celebrate them with their family since both of these festivals are traditionally times for family members to get together. These celebrations are usually open to all UNI students for free and there would be Chinese food, performances and games with prizes. 

However I feel that fewer and fewer students are showing up every year. Back when I first came, most of the students see this as a good opportunities to gather and make some new friends. Now more students have cars and are better connected so they do not see this gathering as important as we used to see it. Some of them also chose to go to other celebrations instead of the student-organized one. 

With a not-so-big Chinese students population on UNI campus, it takes a strong leadership and a lot of effort for a foreign student group to build a culture here. My experience with the American students here on campus is that a lot of them are very interested in the Chinese culture but there is no way for them to learn more about the culture from real-life Chinese students. I hope that someday this will change and the Chinese students can get more involved on various campus activities and not only hang out with each other. When that day comes, I believe this would be an awesome experience for them as well as the American and other students on campus!

 


 

通过两个星期的炮仗,盛宴,搭配着很多的红色,春节在上周告了一段落。自从2007年起,我来回从美到中了很多次,不过这还是我头一回在北京度过春节,所以这次经历让可以说令我非常震撼。

很多身在海外读书的人都知道,文化冲击并不是虚构的。当你刚刚接触一个文化时,几乎所有的东西-从食物,建筑,到礼节和语言-都显得无比的陌生。不过如同生活一样,当你经历过某些人与事后,你会慢慢的成长起来,然后你会觉得这些事并不是如此的陌生。

过春节对我来说就是一次很独特的体验

在过年的前一阵子,我的中国朋友教了我很多关于中国的过节传统,他们并且不断的嘱咐我,“春节在中国是一个非常重要的日子,就像美国人的圣诞节。”过年的时候人们都是以家庭为主,他们告诉我。我的在中国度过春节的美国朋友跟我说:“挺无聊的,兄弟。整个城市都荒无人烟,完全没有事情可做。”他们还建议我准备好大量的电影和书以免无聊。

我很快的意识到我的朋友还真的不是在开玩笑。在块要过年的那段时间,整个学校都变成了一个我从来没有见过的模样。整个校内都成为了一个安静的鬼城。北京城的人口也突然少了一半,所有的工人都回到了他们自己的家里。地铁也不再那么的拥挤,商店也挂上了不营业的招牌,烟火是唯一能够听到的声音。

那天晚上,我和我的学术导师还有她的家人和宴会上其他的教授、行政人员、商人们一起欢庆了这个传统节日。我们一起吃了蒸饺、面包、煎鱼、炖羊肉和酱鸭,坐在我旁边的老教授告诉我他的孩子在中国的中部只靠吃红薯,大豆和卷心菜度过了几个星期。

礼节在这里是最重要的。我和其他年轻的客人被要求绕着桌子向每个长者轮流敬酒。我们喝的是很烈的中国白酒和很昂贵的法国葡萄酒。在这里粗鲁的语言和不敬的行为都是不允许的,这样做可能让你在将来的一年里都走霉运。

这天的晚宴结束时,喝了很多酒的我感觉很温暖很开心,并且当人们意识到今晚是我的生日时,他们为我准备了一个传统的生日餐--一碗预示着长寿的长寿面。我囫囵吃下了那碗面条,并感谢了他们的好意之后,我又和朋友们去北京的后海参观了烟火表演。

这段和那些只认识了一年的朋友一起吃团圆饭的经历让我感受到了在中国感受到很多次的热情好客的传统。中国年、团圆饭、长寿面、中国的传统,这一切都是我永生难忘的。

 

language: 
Chinese