Saturday, February 13, 2010

Year of the Tiger

Of one thing I am certain: there are no evil spirits left in all of Mudanjiang. Really, they've all been scared away. In this apartment complex alone, fire crackers go off every 3.5 seconds. Long, booming strings of them, all day and all night. Lu says it's a tradition to ward off evil spirits. I say ain't no way there's a spirit left to hear it. The spirits of my ear drums fled long ago.

It's the Year of the Tiger and we've all been celebrating. Red lanterns and lights are hanging from the balcony. Paper banners with the characters for health and prosperity surround the door. And food, lots of food. Rice from the paddies of the famous lake nearby, fiery shrimp, mantis shrimp, local sausages, local black fungus, all manner of vegetable dishes both spicy and sweet, fish garnished with its own unborn babies...the list goes on. We ate and ate and toasted away the waning Year of the Ox.

Festival eve was a lazy day, spent watching the Olympics opening ceremony and other television (Chinese shows be craaazy), eating candy and fruit, and much surfing of the internet. Our hosts refused to let us help with the cooking or serving. I couldn't even put a cup back into the kitchen without Lu's dad intercepting me. My insistence that I REALLY like to help fell on deaf ears, so there wasn't much else to do.

As soon as it got dark, the constant din of firecrackers was joined by the boom of full-on fireworks lighting up the night sky, all set off by neighbors. I'm not sure if there's an official show out in the city, but there doesn't seem to be a need for one. The people make shows of their own, launching things that would never be legal in the states.

As midnight approached, we bundled up and went into the courtyard to set off some fireworks of our own. We did strings of firecrackers, of course. But then also long tubes that sent blooming flowers of light high over the 8-story complex. Lu's dad used his cigarette to light the fuses, and handed it to Ness and I to light some ourselves. The out-and-out danger of it put any 4th of July celebration I've participated in to shame.

At midnight we had dumplings, another festival eve tradition, this one because the dumplings are shaped like ancient Chinese coins and thus bring luck and prosperity. Although the sheer volume of celebration would doubtless be crazier in Shanghai, I was so glad to be in Mudanjiang with Lu's wonderful family. How often does a white guy from the west get to experience a traditional New Year celebration in a Chinese home? It is pretty terrific.

Midnight Dumplings
Grandma eats a dumpling that Ness wrapped (she tried!)

Lu took this photo. No one knows what Ness is doing.


LB said...

That is so awesome that you get to spend Chinese New Year with a family!! So fabulous! Also your description of the fireworks is bringing back happy memories for me. Happy Chinese New Year by the way!

grace said...

I think most of my comments on your posts are going to be me yelling, "JEALOUS!"


Dude, I don't think I'd be able to actually light those fireworks. I'd be all scared and stuff. hehe.

Valerie said...

Graton says, "Sometimes I think that a place is better savored through Jeremy's blog, than by actually visiting it."

Valerie said...

"The spirit of my eardrums fled long ago" LOL

Jer said...

Lisa: Happy Lunar New Year to you as well :)

Grace: The fireworks have not stopped. They still go off constantly. It's the holiday that never ends.

Val: Glad you both are enjoying the blog -- the extended nature of this trip gives me plenty of down time to keep it up, so that helps.