Chinese New Year brings lion dances:
This was actually my very first lion dance. Somehow, I've always missed the rest of the lion dances that my family has stumbled across over the years. I had no idea, that over the course of a lion dance, or at least this one, you can return with a lot of loot: The Lion offered us peanuts in his mouth, and some people scored mandarin oranges, and at the end, lettuce was thrown everywhere. The man in costume accompanying the lions was handing out red packets with instant coffee packets inside, because this particular lion dance was sponsored by a coffee company!
Some of the younger children got pretty nervous when the lion got right up in their faces, and the drums were so loud I spent most of the time covering my ears--with the decibel level thus lowered somewhat, it was a grand experience!
Chinese New Year means the bestowing of lots of traditional snacks (during the month of February, my family tends to have more mandarin oranges and 'love letters' than they know what to do with, which is really saying something, given the large number of mouths to feed). This year was the first year for Angel and I to be giving ang pow, red envelopes filled with cash--traditionally given by older, married people to younger, unmarried people (usually children). We've been qualified for a few years, of course, but this is the first one where we were actually in a land where this tradition is practiced. I asked some friends, and it sounds as if the rule about whether you are supposed to or not supposed to give ang pow to unmarried people older than you is a little hazy...I decided to err on the side of strictness, so all single folks above the age of 23 were out of luck!
Wearing a new outfit on the first day of the New Year is a tradition that we were going to skip entirely, until a friend made a comment that she was looking forward to seeing the girls dressed in their Chinese New Year Outfits, which sent us scurrying to the mall on the eve of the New Year in search of some new clothes (my sisters tend to wear through their clothes on a regular basis, and seem to be in need of new ones every time I visit, so it was timely).
We arrived at the mall on Wednesday at 5:30 to find that most of the mall looked like this:
Apparently, unlike in America, the eve of a major holiday is apparently not spent shopping. It was surreal to see this 7-floor shopping center nearly dead. We did find a few shops still open, and 4 of the girls managed to get 'something new' to wear for the holiday--in our family, that's pretty much how we do traditions, halfway and at the last minute. What could be wrong with that? We find it exciting! Here's Sarah modeling her brand new red dress:
Chinese New Year is a time for visiting family, and holding open houses for friends. We had a very quiet day or two while most of our friends were busy visiting with their extended families, and on the 3rd day of the New Year, we were invited to several home parties and fed large quantities of food.
I didn't get any pictures, but if you're ever in a country that celebrates Chinese New Year, don't be surprised if you hear fireworks every night for a solid two weeks. Neither Angel nor I have ever been opposed to fireworks in the slightest degree--there were even some going off as we were being driven to the airport for our flight back to China, and we considered them a festive finish to our long visit!