JISHOU, HUNAN — While folks in the West were celebrating Valentine’s Day, the big day here was the beginning of the New Year, and the Spring Festival. I arrived in Jishou on the 12th, so I could spend New Year’s Eve and Day with one of my friend’s family.
Spring Festival is rich in traditions. One of my freshmen, Wu Chengjun (Smile), is from the countryside of Huayuan County west of Jishou.On her own, she has been blogging in English in her QQ space about the Festival. They were so interesting and honest, that I asked her if I could share them with my friends in the States. She said I could.
I’ve made corrections to Smile’s punctuation and some of her grammar, but everything else is her work. I hope you enjoy reading her diary entries.
11/2 — the Year of the Ox
The day after tomorrow is the Spring Festival. My folks bought many things today, such as meat, vegetables, fruit, hot food, new clothes, and sweet wine, which you can drink with a kind of bread made of rice. The fruits are not only apples and pears, but … I don’t know its name in English. It looks just like “1.” It tastes sweet. In Chinese it is: zha gan. Though when we talk about fruits, we may remember bananas, we don’t buy it during Spring Festival,I don’t know the reason. Maybe it’s dear. Maybe the children dont like the softness (because every parents think first from their children — I just personally think that). Of course, you can find many red pictures with a good word on them, such as fu (福). The picture means good luck ^_^！
Every festival, parents want their children to wear beautiful clothes and eat delicious food. Though children know little, they are particular about what they wear. When their parents buy them new clothes, and let them put them on, they always jump with joy, with a big smile on their faces. Yes, children are easily content and easily happy! Yes, children love candy. You may let them be quiet, and not cry. Playing is a charming thing for them. They can play the whole day without any rest. I think curiosity makes them like this. They don’t know the real world and what life looks like. They are eager to learn it, so they play with their partners, make a fantastic life which consists of all the things they allow for.
12/2 — the Year of the Ox
I got up early. My mum will buy the pig’s tail and pig’s head. The head and the tail will be special for the Chinese god. My dad will use fire to clean off the hair of the pig. Every festival, there is someone who deals with pigs and makes money, because of the customs. The world has such jobs, but it’s very strange there aren’t many people who do these things, but the village calls for them. For this reason, my dad does it by himself. My dad uses the gas and a tool, which is the mouth of fire. Others look at this, and ask my dad whether he can do it for them or not. Of course he can do it, it’s hard to refuse. No one wants to do it, it’s hard to do and a waste of the gas I think. (I am always so mean to everything :-)) My dad gets some smoking, just as the present for the festival. The festival of Christmas is an important festival to the foreigner, but it is the fact that the most important Chinese festival is the Spring Festival. Every one knows it’s a festival, not just the head of the year. We look on it as the beginning of the year. Everything will be clean. New clothes will be ready for the children. All the clean clothes are also for the adults. We call for a neat house and clean body. We have baths, and feel comfortable. All the fresh vegetables from the field are washed. You know, the dust is ugly, so we wust clean them. My mum is busy cleaning from the morning to evening. She washes the pork, vegetables,and clothes. My grandma is busy,too. She makes a kind of kucie (cake), which is made of rice and a small plant, (we know it,but I don’t know how to say it in English, poor english!)We use a special tool to let them be fried well.
13/2 — the Year of the Ox
About six o’clock, my grandma called me loudly. I woke up without hesitation. I must get up to go with her. I am afraid she would dare to go by herself. She needs a partner, and only I can follow her, because I am the youngest in their eyes i think. We arrive at the place, which is the tu di miao. She put all the presents to the god, such as meat, which are boiled pig’s head and tail. There are oranges and bread, (not the bread we eat in the school, it’s soft, but the former is hard.) Of course, we leave the special paper and incense stick. The paper is square, it’s name is thje money paper, which all the dead people use it in another world. Maybe they give the money to the surrounding gods, not the only one. My grandma lights the paper, and I follow her to stand the stick. There have many small points with the ashes of the fire. Oh dear, the wine slipped my mind. We bring it to have a toast,to let the gods celebrate the festival. It’s very good, most of the old folks in my hometown can drink wine. We make sure all the things are laid on the gate of the gods. We set fire to more of the money. The old would tell something to the gods when they light the paper. The things are varied from the happy to the sad. Yeah, you can tell all the things you want to. The private is ok, too. Everyone says a different thing,but the aim is the same: we want the god to bless them, or their family. Wishes are allowed for the health, safety and making much money! God, please bless us! Let all the kind people live a comfortable life after their hard work. The Spring Festival has come, let’s enjoy it, and I wish for all the people “everything goes well! And let’s do some little things to make the love go around the world! My friends, classmates and teachers, Happy Tiger Year again!
14/2 — the Year of the Tiger
This is the first day of the Spring Festival. In other words, it is the first day of the second month.(Oh,my god, the right month has slipped my mind! Poor memory.) This morning, we choose to eat noodles, and fried bread which is made of rice and peas. I have told you in another diary why we change to another food as our breakfast. In the folks’ eyes, we can avoid the fly in summer. The rice in summer will catch the attention of the fly. It’s very strange why the fly pays no attention to the noodles and the other food. We needn’t worry whether it’s wrong or right, it’s the custom. We show the honour to the dead people, too. We won’t clean the house. We ignore the rubbish in our home, because people think if you clean house, all the things including all your luck will be lost in the following days in the new year. Likewise, we’d better not clean our hair. If you wash your hair, I am not sure whether you would lost much of your hair. We follow many such customs,but don’t know why. This is the place of mystery. We don’t know it clearly, but we show great interest in them.
15/2 — the Year of the Tiger
We think this day is right for visiting relatives. If you get along with your relatives, you may chose the morning to start out, and the afternoon to go back. You want to talk much with them, you value the time to get together. But, you may just have lunch or dinner if you are busy, because of the many family members you should visit. The most important I must tell is the big dinner and the following things. The dinner like the one we last one we ate in in the previous year and the first one of the new year. The host is very happy. You should remember to treat him as your friend. He’ll drink with you the wine he thinks tastes good, talk about the changes in the recent year and other interesting things. After the supper, each family gives “lucky money” (hongbao) to the children. They are very happy with much money to spend on toys and candy. It’s very much like a switching money game I think, but we all enjoy it, especially the children and the old. They get the money without any endeavour, so they are pleased during the festival and love it. Why must we visit others in Spring Festival? I think we enjoy the atmosphere, there are many people there. (We describe it as “Re Nao” in Chinese.) It’s what the New Year is. Generally, you can get the lucky money in three ways. The first one is from your parents, they give it to you when you have the first big dinner. The second is your grandparents. They love you very much, too. The third is the relatives in your hometown. If they value the friendship of your parents and earn much money, they may give. Yeah, they are country folks. Do you remember l have told you the first way? All the things in Chinese are known as “Bai Nian”.