It was a quiet ringing in of the New Year here along the Yangtze River for the Luzhou Vocational College foreign language teachers.
Chinese are receiving 3 days off (Thursday to Saturday), including all those in schools and government public service workers, with everyone going into their offices or classrooms on Sunday to make up for the Friday that was generously bestowed on them by the government. Yes, the make-up-your-work-day-for-a-holiday is still kicking all across China. Continues to bewilder me how making up a holiday makes it a holiday to begin with but that’s just another enigma of the country.
Years ago, when I first came to China, we never celebrated January 1st. It was business as usual. But within the last 10 years, the government decided to add one more no-work day to an already sparse national holiday schedule so January 1st was it.
Angela, Geoff and I have finished testing for our classes but the Chinese teachers will begin their testing schedules starting Monday, January 5-7. After that, students are dismissed for the school year to return home to their families for Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), which begins Feb. 19.
Most Chinese in the smaller cities such as ours don’t do much for Yuan Dan Jie ( ) aside from shopping past midnight at stores whose hours have been extended to accompany the millions of shoppers going out on the streets. No special count-downs, fireworks, drinking binges or holiday snacks. Just hanging out with family or friends.
However, I did read this morning of a New Year’s midnight countdown stampede in Shanghai’s downtown district, near the Peace Hotel, that killed 35 people and injured even more. The annual event was organized by city officials, with over 300,000 attending last year, to mimic overseas’ traditions and give the big city folk a taste of joining in on such celebrations worldwide. If you remember in the last entry, I wrote of Chinese dissing “western” holidays and encouraging their countrymen to ignore festivities that are not considered their own.
Perhaps in this instance, they have a point. How sad for those wishing to ring in the New Year with the rest of the world, only to have it end in great tragedy. I have a feeling next year will not see such events planned in the country as government officials take precautions to make sure what happened last night does not happen again.
As for us three Americans, New Year’s Eve had us in my home, enjoying hot cocoa and finishing up the Christmas cookies and fudge while my remaining decorations sparkled away. These have mostly come down with only the inside lights yet to disappear into their boxes so we still had a little leftover Christmas cheer to brighten our evening.
We eventually called it quits at 1:30 a.m.
Plans for the First Day of 2015
It is a dark and dreary day outside, unlike a week ago for Christmas Day when bright sunshine gave us temps close to 70. I had a lovely walk along the Yangtze shoreline but probably not today.
I will, however, head across the street to our city’s beloved Buddhist temple. There will most likely be several coming to burn joss sticks or candles to celebrate the new year, although this is usually something that Chinese do for Spring Festival or special Buddhist festivals.
I will also be working on a 2-day workshop presentation which I was asked to do on January 14 and 15 here at our college. Our English Department is sponsoring a Classroom Activities Lecture for area school teachers and our vice-dean, Lisa Zhang, asked if I’d take the lead on this. Since I will be leaving on Monday for Chengdu (my favorite R&R destination), I would like to get my materials, hand-outs and power point completed so when I land after a week, there will be little for me to do aside from give the presentation.
Next entry: Christmas Eve pictures! Ping An.