I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: being in China for Chinese New years (more aptly named Spring Festival) is a nightmare. It’s the largest human migration and more than a billion people travel to see their family. Of course they can’t all travel on one day, so there is actually a two-week migration period in which it sucks to even travel in your own city.
Two days ago I was stuck on a local bus, for TWO AND A HALF HOURS!!!! I live near the airport (and there is a train station there too) and with so many idiots going around that area, there were several accidents that completely blocked traffic. Then, because hundreds of people were trying to squeeze into one lane, MY bus got in an accident. (A small fender bender. We weren’t going at any speed for real trouble.) My friend and I bailed from our bus, which now had to wait for the cops, and we slowly walked through the dead traffic picking a bus at our leisure. The road was filled with them, just sitting there.
And that’s just me, in the normal city I live in. I haven’t even actually been to a train or airport this year, where, I’ve heard, it is a nightmare. They’ve estimated 2.8 billion trips will be made in this period. Imagine the day before Thanksgiving everyday for 2 weeks. Then you’ll begin to understand.
And then there is the preparation. Many westerner think Chinese New Year, like January 1st, is one day. Nooooooooo. It’s a week-long holiday with virtually every person in China not working. Cafe’s, supermarkets, restaurants will all be closed. Spring Festival traditions still trump the all mighty dollar and even places owned by foreigners will close from somewhere between 4-8 days. No Starbucks, no cute cafes. (Though I’ve heard Walmarts will stay open the whole holiday. I guess they are just as big dicks to their Chinese workers as American.) So finding food and supplies will be a little difficult for at least 4 days. In Lin’an it was virtually impossible.
I’m hoping in Xiamen it will be a bit easier to buy a bottle of water. In any case I’ve stocked up. I spent over $100 making sure I have enough food, mostly frozen. ($100 worth of groceries is more my monthly budget, not weekly.)
In case you haven’t heard, this is the year of the Sheep/Ram/Goat. It’s hard to know actually. For some reason, western media has really picked up on the lack of a clear translation this go around. The problem lies in the language. In Chinese sheep is 绵羊, goat is 山羊 and ram is 公羊. You can see, in all three words, the second character is 羊. And the animal for the new year? It’s just 羊. That’s the reason.
And Chinese people are just finding this confusion hilarious. Being Chinese they intrinsically understand. Or do they? Because the decorations for this holiday are a mix of goats, rams a sheep as well. It seems like when it is something cute, it’s a fuzzy little sheep. When it’s kind of a cool design, it’s a goat. And when it’s a mix of cute and cool, it has extra big horns, I guess indicating a ram?
As there is no consensus, I’m gonna go with sheep. Why? Because this is actually the lamest sign in the zodiac. Way lamers than the dragon (which is mine) and even way lamer than the lame ones like rabbit or pig. It’s because people born under this sign are seem as a bit weak. To put it nicely, they are known to be considerate and try to make other people happy. To put it mean, they are milksops. In English, when we refer to people as sheep, it’s not complimentary. It’s the same in China. Rams, on the other hand, are bad ass. So that’s why I think the sheep is more of a fit for this zodiac sign as people born under the sheep are known as quiet, sensitive, and eager to please. The years of the sheep are: 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003 and 2015.
The year of the sheep is also not an auspicious one to do something major in, like get married or have a kid. In fact, there is even a saying in Chinese that only one out of 10 people born the year of the sheep, will find happiness. Ouch. I read one article (but I can’t find it again, sorry) that said women were choosing c-section just so they could be sure their babies weren’t going to be born after the New Year. And marriages are expected to be lower than normal this upcoming year.
As for me, I’m just gonna hide in my house for a few days, eating my frozen food and staying away from the madness outside. (The government has announced that Xiamen is the second most popular place in China for tourists this holiday. The big cities, like Beijing, actually clear out during Spring Festival.) Luckily I live far away from the maddening crowd, so I can avoid them.
Happy Spring Festival everyone! And Happy Year of the Sheep (ram, goat). May it be a prosperous one!
Haha! Spot on!
Supermarkets and cafes close for the new year in Xiamen? Here in my village many restaurants close, but in the city center of Guangzhou places stay open and when you are done with eating and meeting relatives, you go shopping! 🙂
Sara, I think in the tourist spots, things must be open. (With the alleged crowds I’m too scared to go to those places and see, haha.) I live in one of the non-touristy districts so it’s a bit different. We have a big mall here which is closed today, but I can’t imagine it will be closed for long. I just want the Cafe bene in the mall to open up, so i can sit and write there, hahaha.
And thanks Kim!
Thank you for explaining the whole sheep/goat/ram confusion — and in such an entertaining way. Enjoying the stories!
I really don’t understand how they can’t be clear on what animal it actually is?! sheep/goat/ram they are pretty different! A sheep and a goat are NOT THE SAME THING. This is really getting to me and I have to laugh at times 😀
Other than that I traveled during the new year holidays and had outbursts of laughter and hatred 😀 Happy New Year!