My First Chinese New Year

The fireworks have stopped.
All but one of my favorite noodle shops has reopened.
The old man barber down the street has started to cut people’s hair again.
I got a letter in the mail that was sent over two months ago.
The new teaching semester at school has begun.
Is the New Year celebration finally over?
Let’s hope.

I’ve had quite an eventful couple of weeks and I’m glad to be back to the normal routine, whatever that is. The week before the Chinese New Year, I got invited over to a family’s home. And I wasn’t even trying! I was just at work, minding my own business, when my boss asked me what I was planning to do to usher in the Year of the Tiger. I told her that I didn’t have any plans and was just going to lay low and stay inside to avoid the craziness I anticipated outside. Well, she wouldn’t hear of it! She started calling around asking her friends if they had room for a large foreigner to join them. Sure enough, after class was over, she cornered me as I was sneaking out and told me that I had agreed to go to her friend’s house for the party! I really don’t remember agreeing to this?

The afternoon of New Year’s Eve arrived, and I hopped in a taxi to Chloe’s house – my Chinese boss’s Chinese friend and her extended family. Let the awkwardness begin!

Little did I know, but there were three daughters in the family: all cousins, all in their 20s and all spoke perfect English. One minor problem: two of them already had American boyfriends. Another minor problem: the aforementioned American boyfriends were also at the get-together. One more minor problem: I didn’t realize what was going on until it was too late.

The extravaganza began with food and lots of it. (My kind of party!) It was one of those meals where the entire table was filled with delicious dishes, and those were just the appetizers. Once one dish was finished, they’d bring another out! Chloe taught me how to eat crab, and I think I ate about six, 4 females and 2 males. The dumplings were homemade and seemingly bottomless. The Chinese ladies were almost having as much fun watching me as I was having eating. The Chinese men just gave toasts to each other the whole time. Oh, and the American guys were talking about politics.

After hours of dinner, we moved to the living room and they turned the TV on. The CCTV New Year’s Gala was on, of course! Imagine a four-hour long performance of song, dance, acrobatics, xiangsheng comedy, and magic shows. Besides being completely in Mandarin, the show was actually pretty entertaining. I even recognized one of the singers. And there’s a huge controversy around the illusion during the magic section, or so I’m told.

This did get old after a while, considering I understood next to nothing. So I decided to throw my two cents into the politics conversation. Big mistake. Before I could give my opinion on the current President or the previous one, they turned to me and said, “So, aren’t Chinese girlfriends awesome!?” Hmm. I like to think that I’m a smart guy, but this took a while to sink in. When I finally figured out the grand scheme of my boss trying to set me up with Chloe, I had already made myself endearing to her father and her uncles. I’d have to make a clean break before it got out of hand and start talking about my secret wife in Italy.

After hours of TV, we moved outside for fireworks. Words cannot describe how insane they were. So I’m not even gonna try… watch the video!

And the fireworks didn’t end on New Year’s Eve… they continued for weeks.

For the rest of the Spring Festival, pretty much everything was shut down except places to go shopping. I got to play some basketball indoors and I actually looked pretty good. I think I went to KTV three or four times. And I got a new roommate. Dangit! I hear more fireworks! When will these little demons stop!? Seriously.

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Categories China, Culture, Food, General, Travel

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