Another New Year’s Eve celebration?!
Apparently there is a second chance at a new year if you’re in a foreign country that uses a lunar calendar. Since China follows the lunar calendar, the first day of the new year was February 9.
I had heard comparisons between the grandness of Chinese New Year and Christmas in the United States, but from what I saw, the two are utterly incomparable. For starters, fireworks are the main attraction during the Chinese New Year (CNY) and last for two weeks. Two full weeks of completely sporadic, exploding chaos. Without any apparent restrictions on fireworks, Chinese locals buy huge boxes filled with fireworks and set the entire thing on fire, rendering any unsuspecting passerby subject to inflamed flying bits of firework remains. Yes, it’s a little scary, but exhilarating at the same time.
My friends and I spent the frigid Friday night leading into the CNY wandering through the restaurant/bars surrounding Houhai Lake, staring in awe of the thousands of booming pyrotechnics, and narrowly avoiding the exploding boxes.
It is also a week of mass traveling throughout China, with millions (literally, 10 million) of Chinese families venturing across Asia to spend the CNY with their family in their hometown. With plans to travel to Hong Kong for the week I entered the CNY optimistic and excited for [another] new year.
I’ve developed this quasi-adventurous system of exploring in Beijing. I usually head to an area I’m somewhat familiar with and set out a little further past my everyday boundaries. This past Saturday I wound up in a hutong down the street from my work. It was chock-full of trinket shops and tiny cafes. My favorite was definitely a bar that had a sign on the door saying, “Please close door behind you. Large cats inside.”
There’s something exhilarating about venturing out on your own without a set plan. It’s even more gratifying when you uncover new things.
The internet at my apartment had been acting up, and after spending an entire beautiful day inside to inspect whether it was Skype, our VPNs, or our router causing problems, I was going stir crazy. I headed out of the apartment without a map or any set purpose. I found myself wandering through my neighborhood. I simply went a few feet past the area I always enter a mall to get groceries and realized aimlessly wandering was the best decision I could have made. I previously had no knowledge of the Costa Coffee, bakery, McDonald’s and several boutique clothing stores that lined the streets leading to my apartment.
After discovering little kids’ carnival rides in a nearby park and a roller blading party in another park, I met up with a friend. We ended up watching people play pingpong and elderly couples dancing in a park while sipping on wine we bought at one of my newly discovered stores.
P.S. it is completely acceptable to have open beverages in public…or so I’ve been told.