And a Bunch of Photos From a New Shanghai Person
The winter in China was very slowly stretching to welcome springtime, each day a new flower bloomed and there was a little tickle of fresher air through the streets of Shanghai. It was our first Chinese New Year holiday in the city, but not the first time we were overwhelmed with age old traditions and passionate decorative celebrations.
We didn’t find it as noisy and or as startling as people warned. Having a two year old in our family, people shared stories of previous years and suggested we take his big headphones with us while out of the house. We have them for live music gigs, that are sadly few and far between at the moment here in Shanghai. There were two major fireworks evenings, the New Years Eve and the fifth day of the festival, and several explosions of firecrackers and smoke through the days between. The first day of celebrations is also accompanied with the largest & most watched TV show of the year, and it’s a huge tradition for families to sit together and watch the celebrations and create their own. The fifth day of Chinese New Year is also significantly exciting as friends tell us it represents the money and fortune of the next year, and what better way to encourage more wealth than to show your money through fireworks exploding in the sky.
Money burning brightly in the night! Especially in the well to do-ness of Shanghai.
From our apartment, we can see out north and south of the city, so we would rush from one side to another to see what was happening. Colours and sprays of light. Dazzling umbrellas and perfect sizzling stars. Downstairs in the outdoor entranceway of homes, people would let of the noisy crackers with lots of whizzes and whirls and smoke and then set the fireworks for further. They were in large boxes, and the crowds would stand back as they fireworks belted up into the sky. Several fireworks bounced off our windows and I was shouting ‘a little close for my new year cheer thank you’, but it was amazing to see.
It’s the Year of the Sheep now, and along with every ram, goat and sheep statue, the decorations were rich, red and goldens in colour and very plentiful. Shopping centres were lavishly piled up with blossoms and lanterns, and shoppers taking photos of their loved ones from all angles. Selfie sticks included this year.
The Sheep (maybe the more commonly spoken animal out of the three in English) icon took cartoonish shape, larger than life. Yang (sounds like the English world ‘young’ in Shanghai) is the creature, which I learnt could be ram or a goat or a sheep, it’s all the same. However I’m not sure a deer would actually be included, but this shopping mall wasn’t discriminating:
Wishing you a prosperous year is universal, especially in the western world of Christmas and New Year. Best wishes for the year ahead, for you, your family, your health. But for Shanghai, and maybe other parts of China, wishing you best wishes for your wealth and fortune is just as common. Our bank presented decorations of golden eggs in baskets, and gigantic gold yuan signs along with the sheep figures. Money is a natural part of life in China, it’s not overlooked in conversation and certainly we are all looking for the best deals and bargains.
This year, Chinese New Year began on Wednesday and it was a brilliantly sunny outside. We rode our bikes around the Former French Concession and marvelled at the friendly folk all cheering ‘Xin Nian Kuai Le’ and we joined in. My two year old making older folk giggle as he tried to say it and we had just an overall feeling of happiness to be a part of this new world. Some shops started closing around lunchtime, and the merriness continued through the following days. Most people leave the city and return to their families in other parts of China. It’s the biggest migration in the country, with millions travelling over the holiday. Shanghai is a multicultural city for everyone. So for most of us (Westerners and Chinese) the ‘new shanghai person’ experience is common.
Through the weekend of the festival Shanghai was so quiet. Only a few shops were open down our street, and people smiled and said ‘Xin Nian Kuai Le’ to us still as we strolled past. It was a small community and incredible that a city so busy can just stop and breath for a few days.
I absolutely adored the decorations. And the general well being all through the city. It was strange celebrating and relaxing just as the year had begun, however. In Australia February is very busy, so all the while I felt at odds with the time of year, with the springtime approaching. It is almost like I have a body clock calendar, asI’m very structured usually with how the year pans out and a holiday in February wasn’t sitting well for my western/Australian brain! But we enjoyed the time as a family and the time in the quiet streets of Shanghai.
The week after Chinese New Year in Shanghai, we quickly visited family over in Australia for a few days. Outside as my 2 year old and I sat on the balcony enjoying the heat of Brisbane, we heard a few loud car exhausts, and he turned to me saying ‘Oh! Crackers!’. The fireworks & firecrackers of Chinese New Year in Shanghai does leave an impression.