New years

18 Jan

So now that Christmas and New Year have gone by and we’re all nursing away our holiday blues, it feels like it’s a long way until the next time off. Not in China! Even though the Bund was filled with people on December 31st and there were nice projections on historic buildings (see picture below, courtesy of my Italian friend C.), the Chinese don’t really give a toss about the Gregorian new year, at least until now. That’s just entertainment for them, and in fact when midnight hit, nothing happened. No countdown, no fireworks in the country that invented them and in a city where there are fireworks any given day and during daytime.

The Bund on the 31st of December 2011

They’re saving themselves for the really important thing which is just about to start over here and in much of southeast Asia. We’re about to celebrate the Chinese New Year (xīn nián in Mandarin) on the 22nd of January, and not just any new lunar cycle, the year of the Dragon! The dragon is the only animal in the Chinese horoscope that doesn’t exist. (The other ones being, in no particular order: rat, monkey (me incidentally), dog, pig, horse, rooster, snake, tiger, ox, rabbit, boar and sheep). This means that the Dragon is a tad more special than the others in this 12-year cycle. Dragon years are meant to bring prosperity to all and it is considered to be especially good auspices to be born or get married during the year of the Dragon.

With all this fuss about it and remembering how colourful and eventful, even though generally contained, Chinese New Year celebrations used to be in London, I was expecting more visual manifestations of the build up to the event in Shanghai: street decorations, mighty and live dragons everywhere, some sort of Chinese carols or the equivalent. None of that. Compared to Christmas decorations (even in non-religious China), the Chinese New Year so far is quite a modest affair. True they have hung small red lanterns in most places, like building or restaurant entrances, banks, or something a bit more overstated in my local supermarket. There are also special edition packages, on the Danone yoghurts, and some other products that I don’t know. Yesterday only, the fruit vendors started displaying special fruit baskets and selling fireworks of all sorts in their shops. My same friend C. received a cute dragon from her bank. And, apart from some palpable tension prior to a big holiday (and one certainly well deserved for Chinese workers who have a meagre yearly holiday allowance and live far from their families) in office mostly, that’s about it.

So have they managed to escape the commercial exploitation typical of Christmas and New Year and keep Chinese New Year a family affair? Or do they just celebrate wildly on the D-day – there’s so much fireworks it feels like you’re under siege for literally the whole night – then spend a week resting and go back to their workplace? Where’s the beef? It’s too quiet…

At the entrance of my compound

The entrance of my building

In the lobby of a hotel

At the supermarket

Yoghurt pack


5 Responses to “New years”

  1. Enlaces scrapebox 5 April 2012 at 11:09 #

    Admiring the dedication you put into your website and detailed information you offer. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed material. Fantastic read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  2. Arrai Souad 29 June 2012 at 22:37 #


    Merci pour ce blog qui me permet de rêver un peu plus à la Chine. Vous avez une chance incroyable. Serait-ce possible d’entrer en contact avec vous via un réseau social ? J’attends votre retour avec impatience.


    • L. 6 July 2012 at 03:42 #

      Bonjour Souad,

      Merci pour votre très gentil commentaire. Je suis heureuse que vous aimiez le blog! Avez-vous deja visite la Chine ou Shanghai?

      • souad 6 July 2012 at 08:49 #

        Non jamais, mais bientôt j’espère. Toutes mes lectures me poussent à aller vivre là-bas.

      • L. 6 July 2012 at 09:11 #

        C’est en effet un pays fascinant! Je ne regrette pas ma décision d’avoir demenage ici. Je vous conseillerai par contre d’apprendre le mandarin, ça facilite énormément les choses, pour la vie de tous les jours comme pour le travail. Courage et tenez-moi au courant de vos plans.

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