|Xin nian kuai le!|
Hard on the heels of the 'regular' New Year comes the Chinese New Year - this lunar new year usually falls somewhere in the last week of January or first week of February. Barely 3 weeks separated the 2 New Years this time, and although the Chinese New Year is the longest holiday here in China, and is usually a perfect time to go away on vacation - we still hadn't really settled back fully after our December vacation, so this year, we decided to stay in Suzhou! Besides, everyone gets time off - including our driver and aayi - so if we travel, our little cat has to go to a kennel, and that does not make him very happy!
The story goes that every year, a monster named Nian would come to terrorize the villagers - eating livestock, and sometimes, even children! To scare this monster away, loud firecrackers were set off, and houses decorated with red lanterns and scrolls - the fierce monster was afraid of the color red! This tradition continues to date - most places you go to in China will be a sea of red at the time of the New Year! Houses are decorated with red paper cutouts, and streets are festooned with red Chinese knots and lanterns! The 'fu' character - which kind of looks like a wine bottle - symbolizes luck or prosperity, and is seen everywhere! Now, I can recognize the fu, but what baffled me was that it seemed to be stuck upside down on our Chinese neighbour's house - any guesses why? Well, the Chinese character for 'upside down' sounds very similar to the Chinese character for 'arrive' - so upside down fu signifies arrival of good luck! An 'aha' moment, if ever there was one!
The tradition of setting off firecrackers continues as well! With pollution levels always hovering at 'Unhealthy' levels, I don't know if this really makes sense anymore - but, tradition is tradition, and must be followed, come what may! So New Years Eve is one of the loudest nights here, and the smokiest! The fireworks go on till the wee hours of the morning - and while I was expecting it to bother me, the noise brought back strong memories of Diwali in India! Totally unexpected were the fireworks at midnight on the 5th day of the New Year - these sounded even louder than the New Year ones, and went on until late in the morning! The 5th day is the Money God's birthday, and firecrackers are used to attract his attention and welcome him home - sounds a bit like our Laxmi pooja, doesn't it? Still not done - the 7th day of the festival is the birthday of the Jade Emperor, who is the ruler of the heavens - birthday celebration, bring on the fireworks, of course!
|Canals of Suzhou|
|Where's the water coming from?|
The rest of the week passed surprisingly quickly - a lot of puttering around the house, huge meals, and of course perfect for rainy days, afternoon naps! Ajey and I spent an afternoon figuring out travel plans for the rest of the year - looks like it's going to be another exciting year! School will start in couple more days, and soon this lazy week will be but a memory! So before we all get back to our routines, a New Year wish - may the Year of the Horse bring you joy, prosperity and good luck! Xin nian kuai le!!