Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bah, humbug!

My new apartment came pre-equipped with a "traditional" Chinese New Year decoration - a "lucky" red lantern.

Now, the traditional decoration, I believe, would be an actual lantern rather than an ugly hunk of cardboard; it would be hung outside the house, rather than in the middle of the living room; and it would be displayed for the period of the New Year holiday only - not left up year-round.

Chinese apartments tend not to be all that generous in their allowance of headroom. Mine is better than some I've seen, but the ceiling is probably only about 7'6" high (I can touch it quite comfortably, only going slightly on tiptoe). So, this bloody great cardboard box hanging from the central light-fitting was not much more than 5' clear of the floor, and I would bash my head on it quite regularly as I tried to duck and weave under or around it in crossing the room.

I had been thinking of leaving it up for Chinese New Year (which is now fairly imminent). I quickly repented of that thought. The pointless eyesore has now been removed.


Carolyn said...

You mentioned "the period of the New Year holiday." What is the length of "the period?" My husband's friends in Beijing send us decorations every year that I leave up until the next New Year's decorations come. A result of my ridiculous fear of offending them. You may wonder why I don't ask them, instead of you. You speak English.

Froog said...

I don't think the Chinese tradition is quite as strict as Western Christmas tradition is (or used to be) about removing decorations after a certain date. It is pretty common to fu ('good fortune') symbols, red paper cutouts, lucky mottos on doorways, and so on left up for months afterwards - sometimes all year.

The length of the holiday is a bit nebulous. There are a number of special days within the holiday period, which are scattered across the whole of the first lunar month (29 days), and even a little bit beyond.

However, the main 'Spring Festival' (Chunjie) celebration lasts 15 days, from New Year's Day (23rd January) to Lantern Festival Day (which is at the mid-point of the lunar month, the beginning of the first full moon - Feb. 6th this year, I guess).

However, New Year's Eve - Jan. 22nd - is obviously the high point of the festival. And since that falls on the weekend this year, I imagine festivities make start getting under way a couple of days earlier.

In fact, sporadic letting off of fireworks usually commences at least a week or two before the holiday. And there is such pressure on transport infrastructure (with half the population trying to cross the country to get home for family gatherings, and increasing numbers of the new middle class seeking to escape the country for an overseas holiday) that there can be considerable disruption to working patterns for a couple of weeks either side of Chunjie.

So, it will be gearing up quite soon... and will probably drag on through much of February.

It does become very, very tedious - even for the Chinese, I think; and certainly for anyone that doesn't have any great emotional engagement with it, but is simply stuck in the middle of all the gunpowder mayhem for weeks at a stretch.

Froog said...

For people who have no idea of quite how disruptive this holiday is, it occurs to me that you might trying envisaging the all the worst of the stress and turmoil and travel hassles associated with American 'double holiday' season, stretching from perhaps a week before Thanksgiving to a week after New Year. Then, MULTIPLY that by a factor of 10 or 20. And add in the fact that there is going to be firecracker overkill almost 24/7 throughout the middle 3 or 4 weeks of that.

I really should start looking at cheap overseas flight options...

Carolyn said...

Thanks for the info, Froog. I'll create a "Carolyn period." Where do the cheap overseas flights go?

Froog said...

Well, I got quite a good deal to Malaysia last year. But then, Malaysia is bloody expensive once you get there.

Thailand and the Philippines are probably the most popular short break destinations overall, but Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam are more appealing to the budget traveller.