xin nian kuai le (february 7, 2011)

Tough morning, the boys went back to school after a week off for Spring Festival.  This is the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar, bigger than Christmas in the west because everyone takes part.

The first night of the festival is Chinese New Year.  In anticipation of this evening, houses are made as clean as possible, the streets are filled with lights and red decorations, and you are supposed to get a haircut. Businesses and restaurants close. Then the fun begins. Traditionally, New Year’s Eve is spent with your family.  Wives go to their husband’s parents (they can visit their family the next day).  As midnight approaches you are supposed to make as much noise as possible to fend off evil spirits.

In Beijing, this means fireworks.  I have never seen anything like it… for 48 hours it was like living in a war zone.  Huge numbers of the most elaborate fireworks were being set off, day and evening, full sun shine and dark of night.  The air was filled with smoke and all our clothes stink. Both boys went out to celebrate with friends while John and I entertained at home before heading to our compound entrance at 11:30pm.  No matter where you looked in the sky, there were explosions.  The noise was deafening for us and terrifying for Chowder.  And they were magnificent.  So beautiful!!!  Awe-inspiring!! And yet by 12:30 we were bored and cold so went home to bed.  Though couldn’t sleep because of the noise!

We woke up to the lion and dragon dancers celebrating the New Year in front of our door!! (Actually, we were not special; they went through the whole compound)

John and I had planned a full tourist day but the boys were too tired to join us.  So off we went, the two of us, and thought this is probably our future.  Luckily we had a great time.  Tried to get into the Lama Temple, reputed to be one of the most beautiful with a great new years celebration.  There were, literally, a million people with the same idea… we couldn’t get within 100 meters of the entrance. So we gave up and headed to the Dongyue Temple, a smaller Taoist place of worship.  It was amazing… there were also tons of people but you could push through the crowd.  We saw acrobats and dancers, stalls selling every bit of rabbit themed junk, food vendors (the smell was a bit nauseating), arcade games, people praying and lighting incense and families having a ball!!! I loved every minute!

The next day there was no compromising and I dragged Jack and Hunter off to see the Forbidden City. They also had to endure having their photos taken dozens of times, some of which are attached.  We tried a third Peking Duck place for dinner. It was divine, but shark fin soup was on the menu so we won’t be going back there!

Spring Festival continues until the 17th of February when it ends with the lantern festival, but for us it is pretty much over now.  John has headed off to North America, the kids have gone back to school and I am throwing myself into learning a few more words of Chinese (so hard, my poor brain aches!)

Hope you have a wonderful year of the rabbit.  It is supposed to be much calmer than last year and good for business, fingers crossed!

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