New Year’s what?

New Year’s Eve [除夕, chúxī]. The party highlight of the year for many young Kiwis , yet a notable non-event for most Chinese.

Ahh, the NZ summer holiday season. As I glazed over social media feeds full of #amping festival crowds La De Da-ing in the fields of Martinborough, ravers pinging on yáo tóu wán [摇头丸, lit. shake head pill] at Rhythm and Vines and its South Island cousin Rhythm and Alps, to the mouth-watering BBQ and salads of New Year’s lunch, well, it’s enough to make any New Zealander abroad grow nostalgic for the ubiquitous Kiwi New Year’s celebration.

Sigh, being away from it all… How Boxing Day neatly bridges the six day gap between Christmas and New Year’s Eve and allows blobbing out/being a waster for the week a more fluent, acceptable practice. Definitely had moments where I’ve just wanted to blast Hello Sailor really loud, pretend I’m at Tutaekuri Bay and get my Cheryl West on. Through a Twitter feed packed with New Year’s resolutions and bands posting their location for the countdown, viewing the spectacle that is New Year’s in New Zealand through the internet looking glass was a strange feeling.

It’s fair to say, that for most Kiwis, New Year’s is a big fucking deal. A time to get away, to reflect, to binge, to spend time and spend money, to observe the change in those digits we use to anchor life events throughout our years of humble existence.

#tbt to John Key OTP over a New Year's barbecue 2010. A friend of mine later gatecrashed with a bag of sausages.
#tbt to John Key OTP over a New Year’s barbecue. A friend of mine later gatecrashed with a bag of sausages.

In the Beijing winter, students were studying for exams right into the night, people were going about their day to day business, the big countdown parties were mostly foreigner affairs. My Chinese mates usually WeChat me on festival days with cute emoticons and animated cartoon stickers. For Zhōngqiū Jié [中秋节, Mid-Autumn Festival], for Christmas, hell, even for Thanksgiving! But for New Year’s, the most rènao [热闹, lively, #amping] celebration in New Zealand, my WeChat feed was eerily quiet.

I took to the application to wish some Chinese students a Happy New Year and ask how they celebrated, or if they even celebrated at all.

Just some of the festive stickers available on WeChat
Just some of the festive stickers available on WeChat

Xia Shi Huan, 21yo, Civil Engineering Student

Dalian, Liaoning

[English grammar edited]

Did you celebrate New Year’s last night? I did not celebrate it. For my family it is not a special day – we celebrate the Spring Festival [Chinese New Year].

Did you stay awake for the countdown to 2014? I always stay awake past 12am, not just because of the New Year.

What does New Year’s mean to you? The New Year means a new start, that’s all. For me, I don’t care for the festivities and don’t really have a special feeling towards it.

How do you feel about the Spring Festival? I do not care. It is just a festival. But sometimes it is good to make your family together, eat dinner and talk, it maintains family relationships.

Thanks Xia Shi Huan! Haha you are welcome

Emily Zhou, 23yo, Works at a Youth Hostel

Xi’an, Shaanxi

[English grammar edited]

Did you do anything to celebrate New Years last night? I prayed with many friends of our church last night. Some people in Xi’an go to celebrate between the Drum and Bell Towers – sometimes there are fireworks. I think Chinese people pay more attention to the Spring Festival. [Spring Festival] is the real New Year to celebrate.

I wish I could be in China for the Spring Festival! Do you know about 春运 [chūnyún, Spring Festival travel period]? Almost everybody will go back home to celebrate.

Yes, it sounds like chaos! Yes. So many people. Very hard to get a train ticket.

Well good thing your family live in Xi’an! Yes it is good for me [smiley]

Gabby Qin, 21yo, Accounting Student/Diehard Rihanna fan

Studies in Beijing, originally from Hebei

Did you do anything special last night to celebrate? We were in a night club counting down with the DJ hahahahahaha so I didn’t join any outdoor activities. But like, do you know ShiMaoTianJie [世贸天阶, The Place]? There’s a big countdown in the roof. It’s really good I did the countdown there two years ago. These past two years I did karaoke and clubbing for New Year’s Eve hahaha.

Cool, what songs did you sing? Hahahaha I was too tipsy to do any songs. I’m going back to my province on the 13th [for the Spring Festival] so let’s go to KTV before that ok???

Absolutely.

Qi Fu [Lillian], 18yo, Accounting Student

Lives in Beijing, originally from Baotou, Inner Mongolia

[translated from Chinese to English]

What kind of feeling do you have towards New Year’s? I think that the feeling surrounding New Year’s in China is nothing like the atmosphere of the Spring Festival. But in recent years, there have been a lot of New Year’s countdown shows hosted on television, so the general feeling towards it is growing.

What did you do last night to celebrate? I just watched a New Year’s countdown party on TV and gave my family, classmates and friends a phone call.

How do you feel about Spring Festival? I think feelings towards the Spring Festival are very strong. Every family gets together and it is really happy.

What will you do for Spring Festival this month? Of course, I will be returning home! I’ll have dinner with my family and watch the Spring Festival Gala. I can also see my former classmates and hang out with them.

Thanks for your help! No problem [smiley]

Here’s some related vocab thats been cropping up a lot recently, countdown to Chinese New Year on 31 January 2014.

So, what are you gonna do for Spring Festival *perfect textbook answer*
So, what are you gonna do for Spring Festival?  Oh just *perfect textbook answer*
  • chūnjiè 春节:Spring Festival aka. Chinese New Year. The hottest event on the Chinese holiday calendar.
  • Xīn nián kuài lè 新年快乐: Happy New Year!
  • Gōng xǐ fā cái [Gong Hei Fat Choy for all you Cantos] 恭喜发财: Happy and prosperous Chinese New Year! 
  • nóng lì 农历:Lunar Calendar. All Chinese holidays are based on the lunar calendar, cycles of the moon. When I was like 8yo and my mum told me Por Por’s birthday is different each year it was like “uhh… say what now?”
  • chūnyún 春运:Spring Festival Rush.” The largest human migration in the world. The words are usually accompanied by a deep shudder. Check out China Smack for some incredible photos of past chūnyún chaos. The 2010 documentary ‘Last Train Home’ looks at the havoc around trying to buy train tickets and is also very insightful.
  • kuà nián 跨年/kuà nián xīnnián跨越新年: To ring in the New Year lit. to stride across the new year
  • chūnwǎn 春晚 [Zhōngguó zhōngyāng diànshìtái chūnjié liánhuān wǎnhuì 中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会]:The CCTV Spring Gala Variety Show. An annual viewing audience of around 700 million people. Just to put that into perspective, Beyoncé’s Superbowl performance had about 104 million viewers. Just imagine the amount of Weibo activity that goes on with people live-blogging that shit!
Celine Dion headlined last year's Spring Festival Show
Celine Dion headlined last year’s Spring Festival Show.

See an even better performance from Celine here.

More on Chinese New Year as it happens…

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