This was written awhile back but I was unable to post it. Seemed such a waste not to so here it is now.
After a week of crowded bus and train stations, traffic jams on the main city roads, mobs at the airports, packed grocery stores filled with New Year’s specials, everything finally quieted down on January 30th for New Year’s Eve. Most travelers were where they wanted to be, home with family members they hadn’t seen all year, with everyone busy preparing the big meal soon to follow in the evening.
All our family run mom-and-pop stores along our alleyway closed their doors, locks on tight and holiday hour notices posted.
Chain convenience stores, malls, and big groceries, like the Trustmart/Walmart just a block away, emptied out of shoppers and changed their hours to allow employees time with their families. Only McDonalds was going strong with it’s “24-hour open” sign still lit and ready for non-stop, hungry patrons.
My favorite daily hang-out, the swimming pool, was about the one place that seemed to increase in business during Spring Festival. A few times, evening hours were canceled and morning hours shortened so many of us had to cram in our lap times as best we could. For a majority of us, it was all a matter of getting in that daily bit of exercise to ward off the high calorie intake of the holidays.
The Candy Queen In Her Element
That something special centers around my one weakness: candy.
It is well-known among my students that rewards in my class come in the form of wrapped candy. Visiting my home for chit-chat times likewise brings out my baskets filled with sweets which I continually pick up at the grocery.
I am, indeed, the Candy Queen.
And when it comes to Chinese New Year, the Candy Queen is in her greatest element.
Spring Festival is the time when hundreds of candies fill the bins in groceries, along streets and in shopping malls across the country.
Assortments never seen all year and newly created varieties find themselves piled high in the sugary sections of every major consumer venue in the city. We have the hard, crunchy kinds, such as brown sugar sour plum, butterscotch, coffee, and red bean, and the tangy, soft, gummy types, such as melon, pineapple, plum, coconut, apple and peach. Wrappers dazzle in glistening, shiny colors jumbled together in heaps. It’s hard not to stealthily sneak one or two into your pockets as you cruise the aisles. (I don’t call that stealing, rather merely sampling.)
Handing Out to All: Preparing for the Big Give-away
The day before Chinese New Year Day, I found myself filling bags of selected candy from the many bins at my favorite store, the Trustmart (a branch store of Walmart here in China). My sole purpose in collecting as much candy as possible was to pass the assortments out on Chinese NY Day to anyone I encountered during my daily outings. Taxi drivers, gate keepers, roadside cleaners, beggars, security guards, pool staff, store keepers, kids out playing—This was my way to give back a little happiness that so many have always bestowed on me, a guest in their country.
In the Trustmart, my once-a-year splurge had my eyes glued to the pretty foil wrappers rather than the cost per pound of all these delicacies. Chocolates, gummies, candied fruits – whether $2 a pound or $5, I didn’t care. Into my containers they went.
When it comes to holidays, I pay no attention to prices but more on the joy my purchases will bring to others.
In my small one-room rental, I dumped my piles onto the bed, then began filling my candy bags the night before in anticipation of showering the Chinese with sugary treats. Sampling was a must, especially to discover which candies would be acceptable for adults and which for children. Adults tend to like the softer, healthier kinds (candied fruit and gummies) while children go for the chocolates and crunchies.
Now that all was prepared, it was just waiting for my 6:30 a.m. alarm to go off so my Spring Festival could begin.
(To Be Continued)