Happy Chinese New Year!

I was on a ship off of St. Maarten last year when one of the staff greeted me at breakfast with Gong Xi Fa Cai. I am quite fluent in mandarin. My head didn’t get itself around to recognizing what he had spoken or what language or why. It was apparently the day of the official “Chinese New Year.”

If I had gotten my international copy of the USA today, WSJ or FT (aren’t we all familiar with those when abroad?) I would have undoubtedly been reminded of the fact with some front page coverage. I, in all my embodied Chinese-ness, can tell you all about the traditions and intricacies of Spring Festival. However, if one were to ask me where it calls in the calendar this year (remember, it’s “lunar”) I would have zero idea. It has never been apart of my world.

Last year a little familial episode (don’t we all have those come holiday season?) involved my brother not calling our grandmother to speak best CNY wishes. My mother spent a little phone time retelling me the event, grandmother is so old and was hurt and everyone else so offended. Etc, etc, etc. I get it, CNY travel is a very big deal and there’s huge expectation for families to gather

Baidu tracks CNY travel with an amazing interactive map.

It is the largest annual migration, taking place over approximately 40 days. The IB Times estimates roughly 2.4 billion trips by road, 295 million by train, 47.5 million by air.

chinese-new-year-goat<photo credit: Aly Song/Reuters>

It has never crossed my mind until recently how fortunate I’ve been to be spared much of this holiday. Curiously enough, the 5 of us have never been on the same continent at the same time in my life. My family has never “migrated home” for CNY. However, one can likely tell that with the mass cultural tradition in place it would be expected for children to pay respects to the grandparents. Any Chinese family would undoubtedly be horrified with the thought of my brother not even phoning to speak holiday regards.

Poor guy, I’m sure a bit of admonishing was facilitated via facetime.

In the middle of listening to this I suddenly thought “wait wait wait. I have never called y’all for Spring Festival, I have never even thought to wish happy CNY.” My mother brushed it aside with “because you’re an arse, it’s be useless to expect.” 🙂 All in good humor of course.

A part of me finds the warmth of it all endearing, reading and seeing photos of Chinese people hard working, saving up to purchase what they deem to be the most worthy items to bring home and gift loved ones. Mostly I’m thankful to be spared the investment of time, effort, capacity and resources.

Happy CNY to you all.


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