Getting swept up in New Year nostalgia

By Hannah Leung Source:Global Times Published: 2012-1-17 20:08:36

It’s hard to believe that this will be my third Chinese New Year in Beijing. I arrived in Qingdao, Shandong Province, on September 13, 2009, bright-eyed and completely unprepared. After a rather tumultuous few months in the coastal city of clams and pseudo-beaches, I headed for the bright lights of Beijing a few days before the start of the Chinese New Year.

My initial introduction to Beijing was very Dickensian: Beijing was a dynamic yet calm city, paved with barren streets but endless forms of entertainment. Temple fairs were jostling and lively outside the hubbub, and the air was stagnant and sedated. I spent my first week in China during Spring Festival familiarizing myself with Beijing - riding the empty subway, perusing through temple fairs, toppling through throngs of celebrating children and eating multi-colored dumplings. It was a beautiful romance, a moment to wax poetic all set to Lady Gaga’s ”Bad Romance,” which coincidentally was the song of that month.

Beijing also presented its most accommodating side. This gentleness was juxtaposed with movie-esqe war-time conditions: unregulated firecrackers setting off car alarms and terrorizing yappy dogs, young children setting off explosives in the middle of the street while I ran for dear life.

To this day, spending Chinese New Year here was the best initiation to Beijing. I fell head-over-heels in love with the city, and subsequently spent the next two years recovering from Beijing heartache.

Last year when I chose to spend half of Chinese New Year in South Korea, I felt like I lost out a little on the festivities. I had deliberately chosen to leave in accordance to the designated fireworks schedule, thereby thankfully missing out on the bulk of disaster movie scenarios. When I returned to Beijing, the bulk of the damage was over. I only caught the remnants of fire hazards and accidental explosives.

This year, I find myself with no plans for Chinese New Year. When Chinese friends ask me about my itinerary for the anticipated national holiday, they stare with a mixture of pity and curiosity when I tell them that I’m doing absolutely nothing. Despite my otherwise very Chinese-American upbringing, my parents never placed much emphasis on Chinese New Year. Aside from occasionally receiving a hongbao (pocket money) with a crisp dollar bill or two from cheek-pinching aunts, the holiday was predominantly superstitious and overly boisterous.

Though it’s all too easy to get into long-winded diatribes about how annoying fireworks are, circulate horror stories about the guy last year who got shrapnel stuck in his eye and had no emergency room to rush off to because all the doctors were on leave and complain about how nothing is open, this year, ad nauseam, I will enforce a vow of acceptance. I will try to avoid dreaming of tropical overseas destinations and relish that Beijing will finally be an oddly quiet yet manic city. And I will definitely impose myself on beleaguered friends for movie nights because very little will be open during Spring Festival.

Posted in: Twocents-Opinion

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