Laowai's per­spec­tive of feast, fire­works and the year of the Sheep


The mid­dle king­dom, from north to south, east to the west, filled with riches and cul­ture thou­sands of years old. Marco polo was here try­ing to un­der­stand this fas­ci­nat­ing coun­try and stayed here for decades. China back in the day wasn't just a fas­ci­nat­ing new world, it also was a hub of cul­ture, ideas and new food. The first restau­rants of the world were es­tab­lished in China, which gives us the idea on how close the Chinese were with their food. Hence, with­out a doubt, no op­por­tu­nity comes close to ex­plor­ing Chinese food to a for­eigner (“laowai”) than any other time, which is the Chinese New Year. The much awaited fes­tive hol­i­day also know as the Spring Fes­ti­val fell on Fe­bru­ary 19th this year. The Year 2015 is the 4712th Chinese year. As Chinese ush­ered in the Year of the Sheep, some peo­ple say 2015 is a Green Sheep or Wooden Sheep year. This is be­cause the Stem-Branch Cal­en­dar is con­nected to the Five El­e­ment the­ory (Metal, Wa­ter, Wood, Fire and Earth). In China, the New Year is a time of fam­ily re­union. Fam­ily mem­bers gather at each other's homes for shared meals, red clothes and give chil­dren "lucky money" in red en­velopes. Red sym­bol­izes fire, which ac­cord­ing to leg­end can drive away bad luck. A fort­night of in­tense fam­ily feasts and fire­works that of­fi­cially starts around the vast cities and im­pov­er­ished farms of the world's most pop­u­lated coun­try, where, the crack­ers eu­lo­gized the Year of the Sheep. I've been liv­ing in Bei­jing for the past 7 years. I've ex­pe­ri­enced food from all the cor­ners of China. I'm fas­ci­nated by pretty much all of them, some­times I dis­like sweet meat (Shang­hai style) but I guess I'm just not adapted to the taste. On the Chinese New Year sev­eral foods are con­sumed to usher in wealth, hap­pi­ness, and good for­tune and dumplings are a must. Dumplings are shaped as gold in­gots which were used as cur­rency back in an­cient China so eat­ing dumplings is be­lieved to bring good luck through­out the year. The sec­ond is the fish cooked whole and laid on a fish plate, fish in the New Year can be cooked in dif­fer­ent ways, peo­ple from south pre­fer a lighter taste so less spice are used whereas peo­ple in the north pre­fer stronger taste so more spices are used and in Bei­jing peo­ple have a more strong palate. In Bei­jing there are spe­cial foods which aren't usu­ally made in other parts of china. Some ex­am­ples are Madoufu, Ji­a­jiang noo­dles, Bei­jing duck, Bairou, Zhawanzi, Mux­i­urou, Nian­gao, Wan­gao, Mizhi­hulu, etc. frankly speak­ing all the dishes on the ta­ble de­pends on the fam­ily who's mak­ing them and they could be dif­fer­ent dishes every year. In main­land China, many fam­i­lies will ban­ter whilst watch­ing the CCTV New Year's Gala in the hours be­fore mid­night. The Chinese New Year is cel­e­brated for about fif­teen days and is the one mag­netic mo­ment in the year when the whole na­tion feels united as they par­tic­i­pate in each other's en­joy­ment. It is the time for hap­pi­ness and cel­e­bra­tion, the func­tional peo­ple in China can take weeks of hol­i­days so that they can be ac­com­pa­nied with their near and dear ones and a feast with their fam­ily mem­bers on the Lu­nar New Year's Eve. With the mark­ing of the Year of Sheep on the door-steps, it was a crucial sea­son for the West to grab the op­por­tu­nity in the com­mu­nist China and to load up on lux­ury goods. For high-end re­tail­ers such as Gucci, Cartier and among oth­ers, the Christ­mas through Chinese New Year's sea­son is one of the busiest re­tail pe­ri­ods of the year. In a cul­ture where gift giv­ing is very pop­u­lar and highly ap­pre­ci­ated; Louis Vuit­ton hand­bags may be given in hopes of se­cur­ing a busi­ness con­tract or iPhones/iPads may be handed out as prizes at com­pany par­ties. The hol­i­days bless the Chinese with just an­other rea­son to shop. This in­fat­u­a­tion and some­times the ob­ses­sion with lux­ury goods can be traced to the im­por­tance the Chinese puts on "sav­ing­face" or how oth­ers view them. Show­ing-off is very im­por­tant in this cul­ture where peo­ple tend to judge on ap­pear­ances. The money spent on gifting, es­pe­cially at Chinese New Year, is as­ton­ish­ing com­pared to the West. They have a say­ing in Chinese: "What's the point if you can't show it off?" Jol­li­fi­ca­tion is the essence of every fes­ti­val and the Spring Fes­ti­val def­i­nitely does not lack that essence. For Chinese peo­ple, Spring Fes­ti­val is meant to be the laid-back time af­ter a whole year's of hard work, the time when they can share their har­vest of the year with the fam­ily and show-off to their home­town fel­lows. How­ever, apart from the cel­e­bra­tion, just be­fore and af­ter each year's Spring Fes­ti­val, the ris­ing dragons face the world's largest yearly hu­man mi­gra­tion also known as Chun Yun, which lasts for 40 days. Nat­u­rally, the Chinese New Year travel pe­riod does not re­ally bode well for a re­lax­ing hol­i­day, when, more than three bil­lion pas­sen­ger jour­neys are made be­fore the mass mi­gra­tion ends. With more than an es­ti­mated 300 mil­lion mi­grant work­ers scat­ter­ing in dif­fer­ent cities, China's trans­porta­tion sys­tem faces enor­mous chal­lenge every year, es­pe­cially the rail­way sys­tem. Mi­grant work­ers of­ten have to wait in line for days to get a train ticket back home. Hi­malayan House Re­sort Bhat­tedanda, Dhu­likhel, Tel: 977011-490752, Email : hi­malayan­house., Web: http:/www. house­ofhi­ Our Fea­tures Peace­ful En­v­iorn­ment Sight of 7 Moun­tain Only 30 km away from Capital

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