February 04, 2015

New Year -It's a Different One

The Year of The Goat. Or The Sheep

Taiwanese market stand, full of jars with colourful food and signs in chineseThe New Year is coming up - although not quite yet, it is still a bit too early. New Year, it's already passed, you say? 

Not this New Year.

To the Taiwanese, the New Year as we know it matters, at Taipei 101, the building that once was the highest in the world, fantastic fireworks are organised, and thousands and thousands of people gather to see them - you have to plan your travel well to make sure you get a spot if you want to be close, and start early.  
But even more important than "our" New Year is what many of us think of the Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year, or what's in parts of the Chinese speaking world known as the Spring Festival - and this is what's soon coming up. What we know as the Chinese New Year follows the moon calendar, and hence moves every year. 2014 it was on January 31, this year it is February 19 that marks the end of the old year and the start of the new. This is also the grand finale of the New Years Celebrations that have been going on for days, February 19 we step into the Year of the Goat. Or if it is a Sheep, it varies slightly depending on whom you ask, depending who did the translation from Mandarin to English. 

bowls of sweets, colourful, different, all individually wrapped. Lollipops and sweets
The Lunar New Year is quite a special feast, surrounded with a lot of traditions - last year I met with friends and made Jaozi (see post),  and what is common for everyone is to meet with friends and family. Food is also very essential, not the least snacks - I know someone who would fit right in here...

Other traditions that are widely spread is the handing over of red envelopes to older relatives, envelopes that contain money. You will in general see a lot of red, there are special New Year decorations in every house and on every wall. And people shop, people shop a lot, and especially sweets. 
In Taipei there is a whole street designated for the Lunar Year Shopping - Dihua jie, Dihua street - 迪化街 - a fascinating street to visit, as long as you come with a lot of patience. During the rest of the year this street may not look that special, unless you look up and see what's around you - many of the buildings here are old and from the japanese era, but if you don't know what you are looking for, that may be difficult to spot, when it's not set up for New Years celebration, you may just see a lot of pharmacies.

Big sacks with nuts, peanuts, and different other snacks for New Year
However, about two weeks before the Lunar New Year, or what we often refer to as the Chinese New Year in the western world, this street goes absolutely crazy. It fills up with street vendors selling all kinds of snacks and sweets, as well as various little trinkets that are connected especially with the year to come - and it gets absolutely packed with people, people from all over Taiwan, as well as a few foreigners. I love this area when I come here to look around, it's absolutely fascinating - but I am happy I don't live here these two weeks. 

And I am also happy to be slightly taller than the average Taiwanese so I am able to see over the crowds... 

 The Chinese New Year is celebrated across the globe, wherever there are a large Chinese speaking population. Of course China, including Hong Kong and Macau, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia are among those where it's the most visible, but even in locations such as London, San Francisco and elsewhere you will be able to participate, if you want. And who would want to miss out on a good opportunity to celebrate and eat good food?

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