Holy. Crap. Midnight arrived with a BIG ASS BANG a few minutes ago. Waves of toxic fumes are rolling down the streets and the noise is deafening as everyone with a lighter is setting off firecrackers. I even saw eruptions of fire being thrown out of high rise windows. Here is what it is like to experience CNY in Shanghai and I am told it lasts all night long:
On a quieter note, it has been interesting learning the traditions and superstitions surrounding Chinese New Year or CNY as we “locals” call it. CNY has been celebrated for more than 4,000 years so there are ALOT of them. 2014 is the year of the horse so everywhere you look, there are horses for sale. Mine had to be sparkly and cute of course. To bring good luck and immediate money, you put money on the horse’s back. Done and done.
It is also necessary to wear red to counter bad luck, and many find it necessary to wear red underwear and a red string around the waist or wrist plus wearing a gold necklace is said to have spiritual power to conquer evil spirits. Done and done. Red also plays a role in the legends that monsters feared the color red so all CNY decorations are red to ward off monsters. GOOD TO GO! Other dos, don’ts and symbols include:
*Chinese New Year’s Eve. You should only speak positive and lucky words. Firecrackers are supposed to be set off at midnight. I heard an incoming whistle followed by a huge bang at 8 p.m. so somebody didn’t get the message. The monsters in Chinese legends fled when lighted bamboo made loud cracking noises so thus the custom of firecrackers going off. I also heard that the sound attracts the god of money to your house on the fourth day when more fireworks go off. Lots of money and no monsters result in an AQI of 500+ from the toxic fumes let off by the firecrackers. Everything in life is a trade off. I’m buying a new designer air mask with all the money I will receive from my good fortune lucky pony.
*Chinese New Year’s Day. People get up early today and set off MORE FREAKING FIREWORKS! Because the AQI of 500+ hasn’t dissipated yet so WTF. There are also many taboos like you can’t sweep because good luck can be swept away for the new year—no problem, our ayi has the day off. Pink got her “red envelope” which is a bonus you give those who work for you and hopefully she is enjoying some time off with her family. She keeps our house clean and we miss her. You are also not allowed to use sharp tools, take out garbage, wash anything or take a bath—all actions that could negatively affect your luck in the new year. I plan to stay in my PJ’s all day and have a movie marathon while waiting out the air quality to improve.
*Every day following CNY has significance and many, many, many rules. Many shops and restaurants are closed for at least five days to observe the holiday, though many workers have to go home for several weeks to visit relatives. The seventh day after CNY is the day of the Ren Ri or Human Day. Legend has it that the goddess Nu Wa created creatures in 2 days- chickens first, followed by dogs, pigs, sheep, cattle, horses and humans. I’m thinking cats should be in there too since they act so superior??? Supposedly if you eat qi bao geng which is a congee made of 7 vegetables or fruits on this day you will rid your body of pathogenic energies. Hopefully this dinner will cleanse me of all the toxins caused by the fricking firecracker pollution. Of course, I will be in Vietnam on this day enjoying our vacation with warm weather and hopefully cleaner air.
*CCTV (China government TV) runs a huge TV special all night with TV stars and singers on Chinese New Year’s Eve. It is a huge tradition like the ball dropping in Times Square minus Ryan Seacrest. Unfortunately, our on again/off again TV service has decided to be “off” tonite so we won’t get to watch it. So sad—I guess we will just have to continue our VEEP marathon instead. Selina Meyers, you make me laugh so hard I’m crying or is that the pollution making my eyes tear up…..next year, I’ll plan on being out of the country for the whole holiday but, for now, we are going to sit back, insert the ear plugs and pray for a cease fire soon.