Last Wednesday, a large, heavy box addressed to me landed on our doorstep here at 710 Mulberry Street.
“What in the world did you order that’s 22 pounds?” my mom called out to me.
She continued her inquisitive nature by peering at the return address.
“It’s from . . . Hong Kong?”
She paused in disbelief, continuing with “You ordered something from Hong Kong?!”
Well, not exactly.
My box was a gift from a very good Chinese friend, Frank (Gao Pei), who wanted to send me and my mom something special for Chinese New Year. He had ordered a variety of Chinese snack items and food stuffs from a supermarket in San Antonio, Texas, called Hong Kong Mall. $80 worth of noodles, cookies, miniature cakes, seafood chips and delicate sweet and savory pastries greeted us as we pulled out the packaged items one after another after another. Quite a haul!
What an excellent reminder that, yes, it’s that time of year for quite a few of the world’s Asian populations.
Chinese New Year in China
If you didn’t know, February 1 begins what the Chinese call Spring Festival (春节 choo-n jee-eh), or what we Westerners often refer to as Chinese New Year. 2021’s Year of the Rat is now being replaced by 2022’s Year of the Tiger. Celebrations on Mainland China entail visiting friends and family, eating special snack foods, shopping, giving money gifts in red envelopes to children and basically enjoying a lot of free time for the next 15 days. February 15, referred to as the Lantern Festival, then signals the end of this special holiday with people returning to work, schools resuming and everyone back to normal routines until the next year.
My Chinese students, colleagues and friends, however, are reporting a different New Year for 2022.
China is hosting the Olympic Winter Games and with the government’s strict “Zero-Covid” policy in place, people are asked to remain in their cities and towns. The Omicron variant continues to pop up in places that were once never a concern. The way to keep the virus in check is massive mandatory testing of all citizens and complete shutdowns of infected areas: No one goes in; no on goes out. Migrant workers in country are encouraged not to return home but remain in their places of employment to keep the virus from spreading. As for the Olympics, there will be no outside spectators, Chinese or other, for events. Incoming overseas flights have been limited mostly to athletic teams only. Those who want to leave the country for holiday travel have already been told on their return, 21 days of quarantine in expensive airport hotel facilities will be enforced, with yet another 2 weeks isolation in their private homes. Needless to say, people are pretty much staying put.
Thus is life during Covid in China.
That will not stop people from visiting neighbors, crowding into shopping malls or traveling by car to outer-lying areas to see friends and relatives. In other words, there will still be plenty of happiness and excitement despite mandates of caution.
Join in the Celebrations!
Here in America, I encourage you to do a different sort of Chinese New Year traveling. Drop yourself off at your nearest Chinese restaurant and give the owners a joyful beginning to the Year of the Tiger with your patronage.
Listed here are some simple Chinese phrases to use. I recommend printing out the below and taking it with you to your favorite Chinese restaurant during the next 2 weeks. As mentioned above, the Year of the Tiger celebrations continue onward until February 15 so you have plenty of time to try out your greetings. Don’t be shy, have some fun and enjoy sharing in a culture different than your own.
|Chinese New Year Greetings |
1) 新年好 (xin nian Hao = Shin nee-uhn how) Happy New Year!
2) 虎年快乐 ( hu nian kuaile = who- nee-uhn k-why luh) Happy Year of the Tiger!
3) 恭喜,恭喜 (gongxi gongxi = gohng-shee, gohng-shee) = Happiness, congratulations for the New Year
4) 恭喜发财 (gongxi facai = gohng-shee fah-tsigh) = Happiness and prosperity
5) 岁岁平安 (sui sui ping an = sway-sway ping ahn) = Year after year, may you have peace.
6) 大吉大利 (daji dali = dah-jee dah-lee) = Have big/great luck and big/great profit this coming year. (Note: This last one is popular to use for those in the business world.)
Spreading a bit of Chinese New Year’s Cheer
As for myself, I can’t possibly consume on my own all those amazing Chinese offerings from Frank. I’m off to Happy China, my hometown’s local Chinese restaurant, to share my gift box with the owners (originally from Fujian Province) and their extended family members. I can’t wait to greet them with “恭喜,恭喜 (Gongxi, gongxi!)” and watch their faces brighten with astonishment at all these traditional New Year’s goodies, impossible to find in our small-town area. That’s what Spring Festival is all about: Spreading happiness, luck and good wishes to others for the new year. What better way to do so than sharing a feast of Asian snacks with those who’ll appreciate it the most.
Here’s wishing you 平安 (ping an, peace) for your day, and a very happy upcoming Year of the Tiger!