I (heart) Beijing Part 4

I’m really glad I have the opportunity of being in a country with such an interesting story and culture. I love being able to celebrate many new festivals I never heard of before.

Chinese festivals and celebrations

In China there are many traditional festivals and celebrations during the year. The most famous one is definitely the Chinese New Year. Can you imagine yourself having two New Years in a Year instead of only one? Well, to me that’s really amazing, specially because Chinese traditions for New Years are so many that we foreigners always end up celebrating as much as Chinese people. The first thing we do is to buy a “FU”(_), that’s the Chinese character for happiness and prosperity, on Chinese New Year’s at 12 is a tradition to hang it on every house’s door upside down. This might seem weird at first, but it has its logic, in Chinese language the characters for “arrive” and “upside down” have the same pronunciation, so by hanging it upside down people will be actually telling all the time “Happiness arrived”.

The other common tradition among Chinese people is to spend New Years eve and the whole holidays together with families, during those days most business are close and people goes from anywhere in the country and even from other countries to their hometowns. Is tradition that among other traditional foods, families eat Chinese jiaozi (dumplings) at New Year’s eve, so even foreigners get all together like a big family and celebrate, we buy or cook the dumplings and follow the traditions of hanging the FU and some other Chinese auspicious items at home.

The first day of the New Year, most Chinese people, specially in Beijing, make a pilgrimage to the Lama Temple (the most famous Buddhist temple in Beijing), I went once and it’s been my most unforgettable experience here in China, even more than visiting the Great Wall. During the pilgrimage people buys Buddhist prayers, incenses and good luck items. Once in the temple we do all the traditional rituals, incense burning and prayer sessions. Even though all this is very interesting for celebrating Chinese Lunar New Year, the most controversial mark of Chinese New Year are the fireworks. They start a few days before the actual New Year’s eve, but the real fireworks explosion all over the country occurs at 12.

People all over the country go outside their houses to enjoy them. I confess that I’ve spend hours just looking at them unable to close my mouth. Chinese New Year’s fireworks are to me the most beautiful tradition. But, as I said before is also very controversial, that’s because fireworks never stop during the full week of celebrations, that means a complete full week(sometimes even more) of non sleep during the nights OR during the days. I’ve heard many foreigners complain of stress and headaches due to the excessive use of fireworks all over the city. I really sympathize with those suffering from Chinese New Year’s stress, some of them are my friends, but I would never change the fireworks tradition for anything in this world. Even when I move out of China, I want to find a way to come back here for New Years.

Coming back to China.

Living in China for so many years, is already common for foreigners to be used to say good bye to all their friends. Some of my very good friends went back to their homelands to finish their studies and their lives in general. So sometimes I find myself afraid of making new friends, of getting close to new people just to avoid the sadness of eventually having to say good bye to them. I think that’s something very common among expats communities in many different countries. But at the same time one of the happiest moments in our lives as foreigners in any country, is to receive your old friends again. I just realize today that almost 50% of people who have ever lived in China comes back. Most people have many different reasons to come back to China (love, job’s opportunities, continuation of studies or projects) but what I do know for sure is that once you arrive here, China goes into your heart just like your home country. There’s “something” that attracts people to keep coming back, maybe is the feeling that everything is changing very fast and so are you, maybe is the idea that so many new things are being created here and you feel like you are a part of it, maybe is the idea that almost everything new comes from China so you feel like you are experiencing everything first hand, maybe is the fact that there are not rules in China and still you are usually safer than back home, maybe is the big expats community that is like a big family or maybe is just the loving and welcoming Chinese people that make your stay here feel just like home. Some people say that home is where your heart is, so I guess right now my home and my heart are in China, some other people say that home is the place where you have someone waiting for you, then my home is still my home country. This might sound like a contradiction, but the truth is that I feel like China is my second home, Chinese is the place where I’ve grown as a person and where I’ve found many new educational, cultural and economical opportunities.

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