The Neighborhood During Spring Festival

posted in: Holidays | 1

My fall walk around the neighborhood is my second most popular post ever, so I decided to take a Spring Festival walk.  This is a time of decorations, fireworks, travel, and family gatherings.




“Welcome Spring Festival” these decorations proclaim as you enter my apartment complex.  Traditionally, each home puts a set of chun lian (Spring Festival couplets) around their door frames.  Below is the entrance to my apartment building, with wishes for wealth and peace.


None of the apartments on my floor put couplets around their individual doors, but one of my neighbors did put the character fu, which means good fortune and blessing, on their door, which is another Spring Festival custom.  Some people attach it upside down because the word for “upside down” is pronounced similarly to “arrive” so it is a strong hope that good fortune will arrive.



Fireworks.  They are a major and obvious part of this holiday.  Traditionally they were lit to scare away evil spirits.  Today I think they are mostly lit because it is tradition and people think it is fun.  I find it to be a somewhat terrifying custom, although that reaction is not restricted to fireworks in China.  There are also a lot of restrictions in Beijing about when and where they can be bought and lit off.  This poster was also posted, reminding people that there is a connection between fireworks and air quality.  It is a very clear connection.  The air on New Year’s Eve was blue and beautiful.  After so many fireworks were set off it was terrible for several days.


I’m not sure how much of an affect such a poster had.  When I got back to my house on New Year’s Day, this was the scene in the little park in front of my apartment complex.  I somewhat affectionately think of it as fireworks carnage.

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Although there are clearly people celebrating in Beijing, the other big theme of this holiday is people returning to their hometown.  For many people—especially low income laborers—this is their only holiday of the year.  Traffic is light, the buses are almost empty, the subway is emptier than usual and many of the riders are clearly tourists (the abundance of maps is a dead giveaway).  Because so many people are gone, many shops are closed.  The big malls and stores are open, but at least in my neighborhood, almost all of the little stores are still closed.  Many of them stuck a handwritten sign on the door with the dates they will be closed, before locking the doors.  I am especially looking forward to my fruit and vegetable shop to reopen, but I hope they are enjoying a rest because they are open probably 15 hours a day, 7 days a week.




And I found some evidence of why this holiday can possibly be called Spring Festival when it occurs in January or February.  I think Spring is actually coming in southern China, but this year, even in Beijing I discovered some buds on a tree in the courtyard.  Granted, it was below freezing when I took this photo, so I am not sure how these will survive, but I do hope they are a sign of things to come!


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