Being back in the US for Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) has been odd for both my wife and I. For her, it's the first time she's ever been away from her family over Spring Festival. For me, I simply miss a festival that had become such an important part of my life. Last night I even ended up watching performances from the CCTV Spring Festival Gala (春晚) on Youtube with my eldest son. The family eating together at the end of this performance made me cry.
I thought for this post I'd simply share a few things that I love, or at least miss, about Chinese New Year in China. These are in no particular order.
1. Baijiu (白酒) with the menfolk
Foreigners tend to unfairly bash baijiu (Chinese "white" liquor) to no end, and I admit that it took effort for me to acquire a taste for the stuff. Nevertheless, drinking with my father-in-law and other male relatives had become a highlight of every holiday and birthday celebration. It bonded us together. It's when I really felt one with them, and I may be so bold as to say it's when they felt most at home with me. Effect of mild intoxication? Hardly. I'll give the simple explanation people gave me: This is Chinese culture.
OK, I don't really miss the fireworks. I mean, between the air pollution, the 5:00 a.m. (if you're lucky) wakeup call, and the constant use that makes one crazy on about day four, it's not really something I could miss. Still, not a single firework? Not even one?! It's a bit disappointing. 真扫兴！
3. Preserved meats (腊肉)
Not only did I miss meat-hanging season, but now I don't get to eat any myself! 非常扫兴！
4. Big family dinners
Not all Chinese families are large, but my wife's is. Aside from New Years Eve, when it was just us, her parents, her brother, and her brother's wife, Spring Festival dinners usually hosted no less than 20 people. Day after day, home after home, dinner after dinner. Eventually I grew sick of all the food and renao, but I miss being a part of it. In the words of Joni Mitchell (or glam metal band Cinderella), "You don't know what you've got, till [sic] it's gone."
5. Seeing the joy on my wife's face and on the faces of the children (mine and others')
This morning I asked my wife if she wants to stay here on Saturday and make jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) with my family or go to the Chinese church to celebrate with them. She hasn't made up her mind. I'll be fine with either. What I mourn, however, is that the Spring Festival delight that had always been present in previous years is not in her eyes now. Not seeing her delight gives me a sense of loss, as well.
So, readers: If you've experienced Chinese New Year but are spending Spring Festival 2014 abroad, what do you miss?