First of all I would like to wish everyone a happy new year! Today is already the fifth day of the new year, however, I still have four days of vacation, so I handle things a little more relaxed at the moment. This year is the seventh year that I spend Chinese New Year in Taiwan and meanwhile I think that Chinese New Year is the best holiday!
Many foreigners are really fascinated by the Spring festival, very probably because the Spring Festival resembles practically everything of Chinese culture. The media in Germany really like to emphasize the Chinese Zodiac and year after year they eagerly write which animal stands for the new coming year. Apart from that, however, most foreigners don’t really know that much about the Chinese New Year festivities. I think I’m really lucky since from my first year being in Taiwan, I always spent Chinese New Year with my Taiwanese family, including big feast, giving red envelopes, go to the temple etc., thus this always had been my normal way to celebrate the New Year.
So last Friday, my wife and I took the High Speed train at 11pm to go from Taipei to Taichung, arrived there at midnight and then, together with my parents-in-law, went to a supermarket to buy groceries and stuff and at 1am the supermarket was really full of people!! They really bought things like crazy. For the time of Chinese New Year it really seems not to be important what things might cost, and in opposite to Germany I realized that even at a late time like this small kids are still taken out to buy things. I already noticed a thing like this before and each time I wonder when small kids in Taiwan are actually sleeping.
At the last day of the year, we had a great feast including Hot Pot, meat, fish and many more. I usually don’t know all the dishes names, but what I know is that most them are really tasty, haha. During dinner we also gave red envelopes to my parents-in-law. A few years ago we received red envelopes from them and now, after being married, we give it to them. I think giving red envelopes is a really nice custom, because the inside is very practical and the outside looks very festive! Of course I would prefer just to get red envelopes myself, but when giving red envelopes to others one advantage is not having to think about what kind of gift one should give to someone else. 😉
At the first day of the New Year, we didn’t do anything because we simply ate too much at the evening before and also the weather was not really fine. So we stayed at home and played computer, watched movies etc. At the second day we then went out with a friend. Meanwhile we have a small „tradition“ which is going to Chun Shui Tang (note: a tea house in Taichung) for lunch and drinking tea and go shopping in Taichung afterwards. Last year and also this year we bought a lot of things at Daiso (note: a Japanese variety store), haha. Of course, this doesn’t count as a special New Year’s activity, but usually we don’t have much time to unhurriedly look for things which might be practical for use at home.
At the third day we then went to Taoyuan to visit the whole family. For me this is always very special since my wife has a lot of aunts, a lot of cousins and so forth, thus it is always bustling and probably stands exactly for this special and happy New Year’s atmosphere. Furthermore I need to mention that despite I already live in Taiwan for such a long time, I nevertheless still attract a lot of people’s interest. In regard to my Chinese abilities, I consider this situation as a kind of „survival of the fittest“, because I think that my Chinese still doesn’t match the things which are commonly spoken in a Taiwanese family (though I’m not quite sure that everyone could understand what I mean here), and I also didn’t learn enough Taiwanese yet, so I still cannot rock the house with it, haha. But to return to the topic, visiting the big family is really a lot of fun and surely counts to be the highlight of the whole New Year festivities.
At the evening of the third day we then went back home to Taipei and after that we were only lazy, lazy, lazy, however in terms of being lazy at Chinese New Year I noticed the following: The weather throughout Chinese New Year is usually not really well and this year, in northern Taiwan, really really terrible. So in terms of holidays and outdoor activities I think that the Midautumn Festival is better. At that time, rain is no big deal since my terrace has a roof and BBQ and drinking can take part no matter what. Furthermore, the average temperature at that time is quite high, in any case not the 10 degrees we have at the moment!!
To sum it up I can say that Chinese New Year in Taiwan is really very interesting and many customs give me a very „Chinese“ feeling. The life in Taiwan’s cities is usually very busy and many aspects seem to be almost identical with other big cities, in which country whatsoever. However, the atmosphere at the Spring Festival is really unique in the world!