Chinese New Year 2021: far from home and in lockdown

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Chinese New Year is one of, if not the, biggest celebration and holiday in many Asian countries and it’s a time where families gather together to give gifts, honour our ancestors and most importantly, feast!

One of the most magical parts of Chinese New Year is that every year, it never occurs on the same day as the previous year, so the celebration is always an unexpected surprise. This is because the date of Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar and the first day of the lunar cycle can be anytime between 21st January and 21st February.

the day will be filled with lots of video calls to friends and families, maybe some Chinese takeaway and a day spent cherishing the memories of past celebrations.

What is most exciting and fun about this holiday is that just like Christmas, Chinese New Year is a very personalised holiday; traditions and activities not only differ from country to country but from family to family. In a normal year when we’d be back home celebrating with our families, the day and night would usually include (but not limited to):

  • red pockets (kids love receiving pocket money from their elders!)
  • visits from close family friends and extended family
  • putting up lots of decorations
  • fireworks everywhere
  • unlimited food
  • singing and dancing the night away (usually with traditional Chinese New Year music)

Although it differs from family to family, on Chinese New Year many will prepare (or eat out in pre-covid days!) elaborate and extravagant dishes. Anything from whole roast chicken or duck, fish, spring rolls, dumplings of all kinds, noodles and lots of sweet glutinous rice cakes. True to the traditions of this festival, each food actually has its own meaning – fish for prosperity, dumplings for wealth, noodles for happiness and longevity amongst others.

This year, due to the obvious circumstances, many international students will be spending this holiday in a locked-down Durham and away from our families. For many, we were unable to return home to see our families during the Christmas/New Year break and as Chinese New Year approaches, we will hopefully take comfort in a shared celebratory mood.

Although far from home, we know that spending the day with friends and calling our families will be enough for now. This year it will be difficult to plan something special for Chinese New Year, not only due to the household restrictions for lockdown but also because this will be the first time we have spent such an important festive season away from home.

Chinese New Year is a very personalised holiday; traditions and activities not only differ from country to country but from family to family.

On a more joyful note, I’m sure many international students will be calling and texting their parents and grandparents in their sweetest voice asking if we can still receive (virtual) red pockets — I know I will! Of course, at the core of it, getting some pocket money really isn’t as important as upholding our family traditions, but gestures like these will remind us of the importance of celebrating Chinese New Year.

I’m sure the day will be filled with lots of video calls to friends and families, maybe some Chinese takeaway and a day spent cherishing the memories of past celebrations and looking forward to the many more Chinese New Year celebrations that are to come.

新年快樂!

Image: Silentpilot via Pixabay

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