Candlelight dances on the walls and ceiling. The dance of light unveils Lucas’ face as he struts toward the kitchen. A vanilla aroma from the candles wafts through his apartment. He anticipates the scent will make him increasingly delicious once the night unfurls. His wife Ariel nudges the front door open, plops her bags down on the cold ceramic floor, and wobbles around untying her shoes. Lucas seats himself hastily. Ariel occupies her mind with yet another frustrating day at work, so it takes her a few seconds to realize her environment. Ariel gawks, wondering aloud what the special occasion is. “You,” replies Lucas — in a way reminiscent of T.J. Thyne, the main character in the short film “Validation”. Good riddance to Friday night takeout (外卖 wàimài, a term usually used for “takeout” over the phone), Ariel thinks.
When someone wishes you a Happy Valentine’s day, you’d expect a gift of chocolates (qiǎokèlì 巧克力) or roses (méigui huā 玫瑰花）. The supplementary vocabulary on the valentine’s lesson below shows that even in China these gifts have become the most common ones to give.
Chinese New Year means many different things to different people around the world. It’s a time when
kids get excited for the fattest hóngbāo｜红包; a time of grand feasts consisting of dumplings, fish, and sweet glutinous rice soup (tāngyuán｜汤圆). Perhaps most importantly, it’s a time of family reunions, marking the world’s largest migration every year as hundred of millions of people return to their hometowns scattered across the Chinese mainland. As we officially close off this New Year’s celebrations with the Lantern Festival (Yuánxiāo jié｜元宵节), I encourage you to think about what defines Chinese New Year for you. Reflect back to your most memorable Chinese New Year and what exactly made it so memorable. In sharing mine with you, I’d like to rewind back five years ago to Taiwan, which in many ways still feels like yesterday.
Gifting red envelopes (红包 hóngbāo) stuffed with cash to family and friends is one of the most ancient customs of the Spring Festival. But with the invention of social media, the long-standing tradition developed a new face — a digital one.
The longer you live in China, the more you grow to appreciate its culture, especially the festivals. There’s awesome food and lively performances but most importantly, very long holidays. 春节 Chūnjié is no different. With 5 years on the mainland, I celebrated quite a few, each better and more authentic than the other. And even though I have returned to the western side of the globe, at this time of year, my heartstrings always tug eastward. Reminisce with me a bit.