The build up to the Chinese New Year started several weeks ago. Shops started to get busier, items started to be sold in larger packets. The 1kg flour was now in 5kg packs and rice was being sold in bags I wouldn't even been able to lift. Countdown had begun.
Then there were the items which appeared that I had never seen before, and didn't really know what I would do with them. Pig faces, yes faces! all sorts of dried duck, dried fish, sausages and unknowns. It was so much fun going round the supermarket. It was noisy, lively and full of mysterious produce. A foodie heaven.
Why does this remind me of the story "Three Little Pigs"?
There are so many traditions to be followed, all of them new to us. It seemed we had to buy gifts for all my husbands managers, and give a "hong bao" red envelope, with a 13th month salary in it to my "ayi" maid, and to my driver. This was to be given with the greeting "Gong xi fa cai" which means I wish a wealthy year for you. Everyone seemed happy with the offerings and we didn't seem to break any traditions.
Felt a bit like Christmas with all the gift bags. Everything has to be red, you should also wear red underwear. What luck that will bring I'm not sure but I hedged my bets and now wait with baited breath, lol.
On Friday afternoon businesses started closing up as they would now travel to visit family. Traditionally everyone goes home for this holiday. For many people this will be their only trip home in a year. For many it will be a time to be reunited with their children who are often left with grandparents to allow them to work in a city. It was reported that some 300,000,000 people were on the move. Can't even imagine it. However Shanghai felt so quiet, so deserted. It was a strange feeling.
Here I am in Marks and Spencer coffee shop on New Years eve. Felt very lonely.
On New Years eve, as soon as darkness fell, around 6-00pm, the fireworks began. Slowly at first but by midnight all hell was let loose. I have never seen, or heard, fireworks like it. As we stood on our balcony they were going off all around, and mostly below us. They continued throughout the night. At 8-00am I was awoken by loud bangs as they started off again. The reason behind them is to ward off evil spirits. I think they are well and truly warded off. As I write this there are still fireworks going off and apparently Thursday night will be the biggest night of all as it is a special day on the lunar calendar. Can't wait to see them. Then hopefully calm will return.
So happy to have been able to enjoy a real Chinese New Year. The traditions are fascinating, foods on offer amazing and the whole thing a wonderful experience. I feel very fortunate to have been able to be part of the celebration. I will never forget it.
However I look forward to normality returning. To people returning to the city and to my life going back to what is my normal Shanghai life.
I'll finish by saying
Xin nian kuaile, gong xi fa cai.
So basically Happy New Year, a wealthy year for you.