Xin nian kuei leh! (Happy Lunar New Year!)

It’s New Year’s Day in Taichung.  Almost all of the shops and restaurants are closed.  The streets are empty, and the highways are crowded.  Most people have traveled to their parents and grandparents in the country to be together for the New Year holiday.  So we went for a walk.

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We were fortunate in passing by this small shrine near our apartment when the lion dancers performed.  It was too loud for Luke.

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Pretty soon the dancers were done, packed up, and off to the next temple.

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Every temple and every religion (and there are any here) has their own New Year’s celebration.

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We fed the fish.

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Xin nian kuei leh!

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Happy New Year!

We had a relaxing New Year’s Eve with friends at Tim’s – sharing food and talking into the night. Walking home the streets were unexpectedly quiet as we passed several family parties eating and playing cards.  Today we went for a walk.  A few stores and restaurants were open but mostly it was quiet until we got close to a temple on a street we’ve never been down before.  There was a huge crowd waiting to be blessed and to burn ghost money at the temple.  And as always when there is a crowd in Taiwan, there were booths selling prayer bracelets and stinky tofu. There were also booths selling folded paper ships and dragons.  The ones made of ghost money are probably meant to be burned.  We bought a dragon boat carrying ingots of gold and brought it home.

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Dan is currently cleaning one of the plastic lanterns that he liberated from a temple trash heap.  It’s the time of year when it’s lucky to have new things so the temple was replacing their lanterns.  We’ve been looking for something like this so are very happy to put the effort into cleaning it up.

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Happy New Year!

Learning About Chinese New Year

It felt like the day before a holiday in the market this morning. It was kind of like shopping the day before Thanksgiving.  It’s crowded and you have a long list, but it’s right before a favorite holiday and most everyone is in a good mood looking forward to spending a special time with family and friends.  Plus there were far more sparkly items than usual.  My favorite vegetable stands added holiday bows to pineapples, radishes, and big citrus fruits.

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The Taiwanese staff at school threw a party to show the foreign teachers what Chinese New Year’s is all about.  They set up tables of traditional foods, crafts and mahjong.  I am really terrible at writing Chinese characters but the dumplings and radish cake were wonderful and I am a big fan of candied peanuts and ginger candy.

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There were explanatory signs for everything.

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And Amy did a great job of explaining why each food was special for this time of year.  One of the special foods is a radish (or turnip – the words seemed to be used interchangeably).  The wand Amy is holding is a radish.

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7-11 has holiday decals of radishes and money gods on the door.

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Tim found a holiday night market not too far from his place.  We explored it last night.  As always, there were plenty of street food options to choose from.  I have to admit that I got most excited about the stuffed Indian roti. Most of the Indian food here is expensive and not all that good.  The quail eggs looked interesting.

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Several holiday stalls had lots of red and gold decorations to sell.  I get the impression they would be 4th of July fireworks stands but fireworks are available in every grocery store and 7-11 so there’s no need for extra stands.
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Saturday is New Year’s Eve and then there are festivities for the next five days.  The school is on vacation all next week.  It will be a relatively quiet time at home for us which we are looking forward to.

Happy New Year to all of you!

 

Getting Ready for Chinese New Year

In December nearly every store in Taichung had a small display of Christmas things. What store could resist promoting a holiday that includes both sparkly decorations and extensive gift giving?  But since the start of January we’ve seen the stores get ready for a real holiday.

Everything is sparkly red and gold.  Stores are piled high with gift boxes of whiskey and big displays of new clothes and cleaning supplies.  According to Wikipedia, ‘People will pour out their money to buy presents, decoration, material, food, and clothing. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck.”

In the stores the music has changed from sappy American pop songs from the 70’s to traditional Chinese music.  It finally hit me – it’s Christmas music! (or rather the local equivalent)  It’s the one time of year that we listen to the same favorites over and over again.

Thanks to the cats we resisted most of the New Year decorations. However I did buy one special item… a shiny red potted radish with gold sparkles. Of course.

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The school gives us a week of vacation over Chinese New Year (February 10 to 17)but we are not planning to travel anywhere.  We’ve been told that all tour and travel related prices go sky high during that week. Roads can be very crowded, particularly during the two days that it is traditional to visit graves of your ancestors (which are likely to be in the country while most people now live in the city).  We are planning to do our own version of New Year’s cleaning and preparing for the coming year.