Festive celebrations / let me count the ways

In China, but especially in a large cosmopolitan city like Shanghai, there will always be many and varied ways to celebrate something.  Each year (the international year, that is…) culminates in a number of celebrations, taken from both Chinese and Western traditions, from the religious to the commercialised.

Dongzhi Festival
Dongzhi, literally meaning “arrival of winter”, occurs on the Winter Solstice and is one of China’s most important days.  It marks the point when days start to become longer, a shift that relates to the ideas of balance and harmony (yin/yang no doubt). Families get together to eat food – of course! In the north, it is usually dumplings, in the south Dongzhi – rice balls, often coloured brightly, in a sweet soup.  Must be hot to ward off the chills of winter.

Speaking of warding off … Dongzhi Festival is also the day that all the ghosts come out (it is the longest night of the year, afterall).  So, people take to the streets to burn fake money – the theory being that the burnt money will travel to one’s deceased ancestors, keeping them satisfied in the afterlife and away from real-life.

All over streets and footpaths (like outside our apartment) are the remnants of this activity…

To avoid any unsatisfied ghosts wandering the streets after dark, it is also tradition to also leave work as early as possible.  No comment…

Christmas Lead-up
China has certainly embraced the tinselly side of Christmas, with many parts of the city adorned with flashing lights and baubles, and electronic advertising screens given over the festive greetings.

In our office, we had a Christmas tree and did a Secret Santa.

On Christmas Eve, we all gathered around to watch – one-by-one – as people carefully unwrapped their gifts.  None of the frantic paper-ripping from home …  We also ate foods, a mix of Western (chips and beer) and Chinese (tofu and Pocky) snacks.

My Secret Santa gift was two figurines, a rabbit (looking a little Donny Darko-esque) and a dragon.  My anonymous gift giver explained, by way of a note, that they represent the coming lunar year and China itself.  They are now resident on my desk.

Ping An Ye
On 24 December, many people celebrate Ping An Ye.  This translation of “Christmas Eve” also sounds a bit like the word for apple (ping guo), so people get together to eat apples.  This is meant to bring good luck and good health for the coming year.

Christmas Day
While recognised by many, Christmas itself is not such a big deal.  Our company has a day off, but it is not an official holiday.

We met up with friends for lunch, at a classy hotel nearby.  The hotel gave us little gifts, a fruit pudding in a red bowl … it’s like a Christmas microcosm of east-meets-west.

It was close to freezing on the day, which was a weird sensation for Christmas.  But, we ate a lot of food, then retreated to the warmth of our house, wherein I enjoyed a long afternoon nap.    Just keeping some traditions alive …



2 Responses to Festive celebrations / let me count the ways

  1. Pingback: My first year in Shangers | That Look Crayzy!

  2. Adina West says:

    I love those red covered bowls for the pudding! Very classy, like a bigger version of the ones traditionally used to keep ink in for Chinese calligraphy.

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