A 2010 Celebration Arrives In Little Longzhou
When I first arrived in China 18 years ago, January 1st was not a holiday.
Schools and government offices remained open, shops had no special winter sales and citizens went about their daily work schedules as usual.
But as China opened up more to the outside world, and Western holidays became more recognized, January 1st took on a new entity in this country. Not only is it now a holiday but it is much like our after-Thanksgiving Black Friday: a signal that another, more celebrated day is approaching, meaning it’s time to go shopping in preparation of its arrival.
In America, that day is Christmas.
In China, that day is Spring Festival, better known as Chinese New Year.
For our small campus, celebrations for January 1st began on New Year’s Eve. We had a huge bonfire, dancing until midnight and a 15-minute firework display to welcome in 2010.
For New Year’s Day, the small town of Longzhou bustled with excitement.
January 1st afternoon, I was surprised to find myself in the midst of usually sleepy downtown streets that were now filled with folks in from the countryside loading up on sale items.
Our main department store was crowded at the entrance with mini stalls selling winter coverlets, puffy colorful jackets and coats, and heavy blankets. The grand opening of a new cellphone store had customers crowding in, ready to purchase new phones for the new year at discount prices. The one and only downtown ATM machine had a line of about 20 customers, all eagerly waiting to fill their wallets with cash to get in on all the sales.
Several helium balloon sellers were doing a fair business with the kids, all wanting their pick of shapes from lucky fish and Chinese New Year animals to popular Asian cartoon characters.
The main fresh foods market was likewise awash with buyers picking over meat selections tossed onto concrete slabs or choosing the best selections from fruit and vegetable stalls. The mini 3-wheeled taxies were everywhere, picking up passenger after passenger who were all loaded down with their goodies for the day.
Chinese New Year Approaching: February 14, Valentine’s Day!
Now a full week later, things have calmed down a bit but it’s obvious to see that consumerism is up now that Chinese New Year is approaching. This year is a bit unusual in that the Year of the Tiger will be seen in on February 14, also familiar to us as Valentine’s Day.
Even in China, Valentine’s Day is becoming somewhat known as an adopted Western custom for those in love. While not quite as popular as in the States, it is slowly becoming another way for flower, candy and jewelry shop owners to advertise to Chinese young folk their wares for the Westerners’ fortuitous day of love.
I’m guessing that this year in China, Chinese New Year will be a very big day for wedding celebrations to take place, especially in the big cities.
For myself, I’ll be in the States during Chinese New Year, enjoying some family time and taking care of some important in-country business so I’ll miss out on all the fun.
The End of the Term
At present, we have 2 more weeks of classes that are now filled with test-taking. My students are in the 2nd week of my oral English exams. So far, I am happy to report 125 have passed with another 125 students to go this next week.
I only had 2 who had to take the test 3 times before finally managing a 60. Mostly, that 60 was given due to the painful effort they put in trying again and again to pass, not so much in their ability to actually speak the language. Since our oral class isn’t worth much among all their other English language courses, I figure might as well give a mark which won’t shame them among their family members.
Failing the foreign teacher’s class would definitely be shameful.
Here’s hoping your 2010 is off to a great start as I continue with my testing. And here’s wishing all my students good test results for their exams!
From China, sending you Ping An (peace) for your week.