Spring Festival/Chinese New year is here and the Chinese take it very serious. The Chinese zodiac is made up of 12 animals and 2018 is the Year of the Dog. I am a Tiger and more to the point, a Water Tiger , whatever the heck that is.
First things first. Stop saying gong hei fat choy as is not the same as saying happy Chinese New Year
Although you may hear it often, usually on advertisements for the Mandarin Restaurant, it actually delivers a wish for prosperity so in reality you are bestowing the wish that your recipient becomes wealthy in the year ahead. Gong hei fat choy is the Cantonese way of saying the phrase and in Mandarin Chinese, it’s gong xi fa cai (pronounced gong she fa tsai).
Happy Chinese New Year is Xīn nián (new year) kuài lè (happy) in Mandarin - Xīnnián kuàilè and with the tones of 1,2,4,4 it has to be right otherwise who knows what the heck you are saying. I must have said it 200 times in the last few days because I wanted to sound smart, but I still sound ridiculous. Chinese New Year is also known as chun jie, or spring festival, so you can also wish your friends a happy new year that way. So instead of saying xīnnián kuàilè for example, you would say chūnjié (spring festival) kuàilè (happy).
This is it, the big holiday of the year. Almost everything is shut down for two weeks, people return to their hometowns and anyone else in their right mind finds a flight and gets out of the country. I decided that since it is my first Spring Festival in China I would embrace the experience. I have made better choices in this life.
The celebration in Xi'an, and I suspect all of China, is about is all about lights and people, people and lights. As most businesses are closed it seems as every able body hits the streets. The most intense was Dayanta, home to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a major tourist area. Holy sh**. The area is quite large and there were easily a half a million people milling about and that is no exaggeration. It is normally a busy location as there is a nightly light and waterworks show but this was over the top. There was music, food, lights, lights and oh yes people. Police were set up to direct the flow of people, a first for me. To many times I was a salmon swimming up stream and the Chinese are not know for their manners. People pushing, shoving, screaming and everyone staring into their phones or taking endless pictures.
It was actually quite beautifully displayed and as my pictures with my DSLR did not turn out great (still working on my night shooting) We returned a second night with my Sure shot. Still not the best pictures but you can see the chaos.
Next up was a trip to the Bell Tower. Wandering towards the subway was impossible and it was easier to walk one stop west to Xiao Zhai, a 10 minute stroll. Jumping on the subway there and returning to the Dayanta stop was an incredible experience. We stood away from the doors because we had an idea as to what was about to happen. There were a few naive souls standing at the doors waiting to get off the train and knowing the Chinese do not cue up like a normal society what we thought was going to happen, happened. The surge of aggressive yet giggling people boarding the train pushed the others who were waiting to leave the train backwards with no hope of de-training. They looked around "shocked" like this was unexpected. They tried to push through but nobody was giving way. It took 2 stops when they could get off the train and I suspect take another train back in the opposite direction to Dayanta. I wish I had a video or even of the madness but I was so jammed in that was an impossible task. I guess I could have just used my elbows or pushed people out of the way to access my camera but I am Canadian and do not have the Chinese "fuck you" gene.
The area around the Bell Tower (zhong lou) was a bit more sedate but no less crowded. I was not even going to attempt to enter Muslim Street or the area around the Drum Tower. I have been to this area to many times and going there to take photos of the madness had no appeal to me. So, what did we do? Naturally this being China we stopped to eat, biang biang mian which are big noodles with spices and two of the most difficult characters to write in Chinese.