Expats find new ways to enjoy the holiday period
As Lunar New Year becomes increasingly recognized across the world, expats who spend the traditional festival in China are discovering a wide range of enjoyable pursuits.
Huda Mohammed, a doctoral student at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, is looking forward to spending her third Spring Festival in China.
“My favorite part of Lunar New Year is the fireworks,” the Yemen national said. “I went out with my friends to the street at 11pm on New Year’s Eve in 2016 to see the fireworks. It was so nice.”
She said her friends even searched online to check locations where fireworks could be seen, and we visited them to enjoy the displays.
“After the stunning fireworks, we returned to the campus and had some dumplings made by my Chinese friends,” she said.
She also had fun with the online red envelope games on WeChat. People can give and receive digital red envelopes, or hongbao, containing real money, on their phones.
“We just kept receiving and giving red envelopes, which was really fun,” she said.
For Huda, the best thing about spending Spring Festival in Beijing is the lack of passengers on public transportation, which she called “super good”.
According to data from the city’s department of statistics, as many as 8 million people of Beijing’s population of 21 million are from other parts of China, which means that about 40 percent of the city’s residents may return to their hometowns to spend the traditional festival with their families.
In addition, a large number of people choose to travel abroad during the holiday, meaning traffic congestion is not an issue during the festival period.
For expats who stay in the capital, it’s a good time to travel around and enjoy the city. “I like Beijing during Spring Festival. Many people leave the city and it’s really easy to get around,” said Bill Siggins, 60, an editor from Canada.
Siggins’ wife hails from Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province.
He said he goes to Miaohui — a type of fair held during Spring Festival — where people can enjoy traditional food and cultural shows in public parks.
“I’ll eat some weird traditional Beijing food — duck intestines or some other organ — and buy a Chinese New Year symbol to hang on the door,” he said.
He often travels to his wife’s hometown to spend the festival with her family.
“It’s always good to see my mother-and father-in-law, and we always have a great time on New Year’s Eve. We eat way too much food, have too much fun watching the TV gala and then get way too crazy with fireworks at midnight,” he said.
This year, he plans to drive to Xi’an for the coming holiday.
Newcomers always have a good time during Spring Festival.
Gopolang Molale, a 24-year-old master’s student at UIBE, will be celebrating his first Spring Festival in China.
“I’m excited that I’m going to experience this festival in China and be part of it,” the South African national said. “I know some of the traditions about this festival such as people going back home and getting together. I wonder if it’s like Christmas for Westerners? The Beijing municipal government has invited us to a traditional concert. I’m very much looking forward to it.”
He also plans to travel to Shanghai during the holiday and visit the Disneyland resort there, the sixth in the world, which opened in 2016. According to the theme park, cartoon characters will dress in traditional Chinese costumes during the holiday period.