Chinese New Year begins!

It started with a bang and ended with silence. Or something like that.

Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) is upon us! Chinese New Year really is the biggest holiday of the year here – and now I can agree that equating it to feeling of Christmas / New Year in the States is appropriate. For the past month, the excitement has crept up on everyone and gradually escalated to this point. Kids are out of school (but that doesn’t mean that they are out of cram school, tutoring, extra sessions, or working temp jobs);  everyone has the following week as vacation; bosses have been treating their workers to a meal, a tradition called 尾牙 — just to name a few of the year-end signals.

About a week ago my friend said to me in response to overhearing someone else saying “Happy New Year”, “Really, already? Every day now you get wished a Happy New Year…”

The feeling of New Year’s is seeking hustle, bustle and excitement – just like many folks enjoy the madness rushing to shop for Christmas presents. For example, new markets spring up devoted to New Year’s crowds as everyone shops for food (snacks of all kinds!) to bring to gatherings and gifts (年貨大街). Somehow, these incarnations of street markets have even more bustle than any regular market – everything escalates to a higher level. There are more stalls, more types of snacks, more samples to eat, more noise, and definitely more people.

Crowds of eager New Year's revelers pushing their way through crowds to sample snacks, buy things, or maybe just enjoy the business.
Crowds of eager New Year’s revelers pushing their way through crowds to sample snacks, buy things, or maybe just enjoy the business.

Even regular markets have extra buzz. Excitement seemed tangible at my favorite nearby vegetable market yesterday. Well, maybe more tangible than excitement were the extra people, escalating the usually busy to place to one that required pushing to move through. Everyone was stocking up on regular supplies, but also some seasonal specialties, such as New Year’s cake (年糕).

Yum! 3 different flavors: the large block is traditional brown sugar. The other kinds are matcha and redbean, which seem to be the main variants available.
Yum! 3 different flavors: the large block is traditional brown sugar. The other colors are pieces of matcha and redbean flavored cakes, which seem to be the main variants available.

 

And then… silence.

The hustling, the bustling – it all seems to have vanished within the past day. Now that the day is finally here – finally it’s New Year’s eve – Taipei has emptied out as many residents return to their parents’ or their grandparents’ homes outside the city*. Although the grow of the Taipei city area probably still pales by comparison to much of recent growth in mainland China, many of its residents only moved from other parts of Taiwan within the past century. And so, suddenly it seems like Taipei is ¾ of the way to a ghost town now that everyone has gone home to be with their families. The public transportation is eerily empty. When the light turns green on the main road that I live next to, there is no pile up of mopeds and cars that roar forward.

The quiet in this hectic city is nice. To me it feels like a late December snowfall, bringing a magical and much-needed rest that can only be granted during a certain season.

 

Sorry about the lack of entries recently, but you can look forward to a series of updates soon – both on how the holiday week progresses and what’s been going on recently. One of my goals in the next week is to catch up on my backlog of started blog posts / ideas.

 

* I did some googling to see if I could find a good chart of population growth in Taipei City, but search results of about 10-15 minutes seemed to fall into two main categories: graphs of total Taiwanese population growth (English searches) – possibly coming from the “China-Taipei” moniker; and pictures of food (Chinese searches) – because I guess that just what people are writing in Chinese about Taipei anyway…