happy year of the monkey!

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Happy Chinese New Year! Today is the start of the year of the monkey – woot! And … I’ve moved back to New York! Surprise!

As you can imagine, Chinese New Year is a big deal. China is currently on a week-long holiday with many businesses closed, large cities nearly emptied as people are in their hometowns, and practically every surface decked out with red knots, lanterns, and ribbons. But here? It’s pretty much business as usual. Last night people were far, far more concerned with the Super Bowl! And I had sushi for dinner.

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way behind the holiday schedule

Seriously, what holiday season is it now? Apparently I completely missed out on St. Patrick’s Day yesterday. Easter is coming up on April 5th, so ostensibly it should be Easter season, but that’s not celebrated in China and the next Chinese holiday, Qingming Jie (Tomb-Sweeping Day) is more of an observance than celebration.

But whatevs, it’s been almost four months since Christmas, three and a half months since the New Year, a month since the Chinese New Year, and two weeks since the end of the Chinese New Year (Lantern Festival). And you know what? All my Christmas, New Year, and Chinese New Year decorations are still up. Why? Because I’ve been busy. Can I just get that phrase made into a stamp already?

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Oh well. Maybe I should just turn the tree into a year-round holiday tree because I have nowhere to store it anyhow. And the little ram is pretty adorable, so he can stay too!

happy year of the sheep/goat/ram!

Happy New Year’s Eve! Tomorrow is the first day of the Chinese New Year, the year of the 羊 yáng … which translates to sheep, goat, and/or ram. So yeah, that doesn’t make things confusing whatsoever.

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And just like on New Year’s Eve of the Western/Gregorian calendar, I am sitting at the Pudong Airport waiting for a flight. But this time it’s domestic and the flight will probably be on time. Woot!

Hope you have a prosperous year of the sheep/goat/ram!

to the god of wealth: holla

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Day 5 of the Chinese New Year extravaganza is dedicated to the God of Wealth. According to Wikipedia, it’s his birthday. And as day 4 turned into day 5, there were a lot of fireworks meant to attract prosperity and good fortune – basically the same situation as three years ago. The fireworks were much more lively and widespread than on New Year’s Eve, partially because by this time people are starting to come back to Shanghai, but mostly because peeps like the dough. Yay money!

happy year of the horse!

For those of you not in China, you may not have heard, but it’s the Chinese New Year! And according to the zodiac calendar, it’s the Year of the Horse! Happy New Year! 新年快乐! Woot!

The nation of China has basically shut down at this point, which might be a hard concept for people to understand. It’s not just that it’s a holiday … it’s DEAD here. I’ve stocked up on snacks (maybe not enough given the rate I’m chowing down) and plan on basically hibernating. Some places will reopen on the second day of the (lunar) new year, but the official holiday (which most people follow, crazy make-up days and all) is for one week starting today, from January 31st (first day of the new year) to February 6th (seventh day).

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There were some fireworks earlier in the evening around 9 and 10 or so, but wow … once the clock struck 12, it was like complete madness out there. There were fireworks going off left and right, some of them really really close. It looked like the apartment securitiy guards were having a ball :) The air quality was pretty bad today so the sky wasn’t very clear to begin with. But now, with all the smoke from the fireworks still lingering in the air? Visibility is … pretty darn low. Cheers!

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welcome to the year of the snake

Today is Chinese New Year in the lunar calendar, marking the start of the year of the snake according to the Chinese zodiac. It also marks the start of two weeks of celebration! But to be honest, I’ve never done the full celebrations because I can’t remember what each day means and … that’s a lot of effort.

In Chinese culture it’s tradition to put up these red banners around the doorway with phrases of good will or what-not. However, when you’re not in China, it just looks tacky. I was in Flushing (aka “the other Chinatown”) with some friends a few weeks back, so I bought a little token for the new year that I’m hanging on the doorknob to my room. The character embroidered in yellow is 福 (fú), which translates to “good fortune.” It’s commonly seen on Chinese New Year decorations, because everyone’s wishing that the new year brings good fortune. And ya know, I could always use a bit of fortune.

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tutorial: pan chang chinese knot

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is being re-posted here for my own sake.]

In a previous post from a few years back, I made some Chinese knots for Chinese New Year 2010. Well, January 23, 2012, is the date for this year, and it’s fast approaching! I still had some of the same red cord from that previous project, so I decided to try and learn a new knot. And I picked a doozy of one called the Pan Chang knot.

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It took me a few times, but I finally got it. I had to get some cardboard and stick some pins in it to keep the cord where I wanted it, but in the end it turned out kind of cool. I had take more photos, but when you work at night and your room has incandescent lights and therefore a dim yellowish hue … it’s just too much work trying to make them presentable. Anyhow, I missed using Adobe Illustrator so much I decided to use the program to make a little guide. Yay.

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1. Get some cardboard stack it up (two or three layers so the pins stay in). Then following the guide, put pins where there are pink dots.

2. Get some cord/string that’s got some thickness (red is a lucky color). You’ll need about a yard … maybe more. In the middle, create a loop tied off with a knot. With one end, string the cord around the pins following the guide – stringing it vertically and then horizontally. Make sure to note when it goes over/under the already-laid cord.

3. With the other end of the cord, you’ll weave it through vertically and then horizontally. Again, make sure you take note when the cord is supposed to go over/under another one.

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4. And that should be that. Carefully pull the cord up from around the pins and carefully pull on the outer loops. After you get the center roughly squared away, then you can begin adjusting the length of the loops by slowly working the cord through the piece, tightening along the way. The original knotted loop should be tight to the center square, and the two side loops should be bigger than the four other ones.

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5. Voila! After all the tightening you’ll have to trim the ends of your cord. And then you can either leave the ends hanging or finish them off with some button knots.

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Whew. Wasn’t that fun? I don’t have enough cord to make another knot, so that’s it. It’s kind of a small thing to show for all the time and effort I put into making it. It was fun though. Once you make one successfully you can sort of understand how the knot is constructed. The one I made here has four rows, but you can easily expand the knot to have six or eight rows just by increasing the number of vertical and horizontal moves you make. Good luck! Wishing everyone a happy new year!

it is so, so loud

It is just past midnight, making it the 5th day of the Chinese New Year. Why is that significant? Because it sounds like a war-zone outside. Seriously. The Chinese LOVE their fireworks, and since the fifth day has some significance about a god of wealth or what-not, tonight fireworks are meant to attract him. And what do Chinese people love more than fireworks? That’s it, ladies and gentlemen, MONEY.

I am literally watching at least eight different fireworks shows – simultaneously. On my balcony it smells like smoke and it’s deafening. So awesome, so loud. But since I’m leaving early in the morning for some traveling (got to catch a flight) I’m wondering just how long this is going to go for. Because really … it would be impossible to sleep through this.

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hoppity hop!

Happy Chinese New Year! It’s the year of the rabbit as of today (February 3), the first day of the Chinese new year. Basically I’ve been eating a bunch (dinners with the extended family), in accordance with tradition. Shanghai’s emptied out quite a bit with so many people having gone to their hometowns or traveling, so streets are quiet and many stores and restaurants are closed.

Last night there were a bunch of fireworks. Today there were also fireworks, and the next few days will also have fireworks. Some of the fireworks were really, really close. Below is a picture of the fireworks that my apartment complex had set off. Standing on my balcony, they were like … RIGHT THERE. Ridiculously close but pretty darn cool.

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happy (fill-in-the-blank)

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is being re-posted here for my own sake.]

This weekend was just chock full of holidays, wasn’t it? To everyone out there: Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy Chinese New Year, Happy Flag Day (to the Canadians), and Happy President’s Day (to the Americans)! Oh … and an early Happy Mardi Gras!

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There wasn’t much celebrating on my part because evidently my professors didn’t get the memo. I had a break between my classes this morning, so I went home and took a little nap. When I woke, this is the sight that greeted me and I realized: Wow, I am kinda girly. I also realized that naps during the day are amazing!

It’s a bit chilly here (by which I mean it’s in the 30s), but my bed is right next to a window that gets southern sunlight, so I was all warm and snuggly. These are the things that make me happy.