Spring Festival in Shanghai-The Long Journey Home Begins

It's time for the Chinese to welcome the Year of the Horse on 1/31 and then celebrate a week of Spring Festival.  The mass exodus has started as everyone is leaving around now to make the long journey home in time to spend New Year's Eve on 1/30 with their families enjoying the most important dinner of the year.  This is the one time all year that everyone goes to visit their relatives, whether they want to or not. 

While there are bullet trains that travel between major cities quickly, most locals take the standard trains that make multiple stops and can take 12+ hours to get to locations.  You can buy "hard seat" or "soft seat" but I've travelled first class on the bullet train and it isn't even what I would call nice so I can't even imagine 12 hours on a "hard seat".  Yikes-talk about a butt buster.  As with most holidays, there will be family drama aplenty.  Typically, couples will have to fight over which relatives to visit first as China is a BIG country and if you and your husband are from different provinces, good luck getting to both during this "travel from Hell" timeframe.  In this society, the man will most often dictate visiting his relatives vs. the wife.  Another tradition is that all single people, including children, will get money for the holiday-if you are married, you are out of luck--no money!  I've been told the amount of "hongbau" varies but I heard 2000 RMB was average for a child from one of my co-workers.  The holiday is approaching rapidly—watch out for fireworksuptheasspocalypse because that is how everyone celebrates--by firing off explosions over their house/apartment/business to attract money in the New Year.  In China, ask anyone what they want in the New Year and they will reply, "MORE MONEY!"  News stories about the holiday have dominated the headlines in the Shanghai Daily recently:

"Filial piety at odds with torturous travel"  The old rules dictate that the man wins this battle.  But many couples are splitting up during the holiday and visiting their respective parents separately.  One parent was quoted as suggesting, "They've spent all year with each other, so it doesn't hurt to be away for just a few days."  Absence does make the heart grow fonder, especially if you can be far, far away from your in laws. 

"Son, forget marriage, just come home..."  The pressure to marry and produce a boy child is HUGE here.  This article is about parents who kept pressuring their son to marry to the point that he would not come visit for Spring Festival, which is a cardinal sin in this culture.  They missed him so they took out an expensive full page ad in the front page of the Chinese Melbourne Daily to promise to quite interfering in his love life.  Of course, they may regret this expenditure if baby son brings home a boyfriend, as the article goes on to suggest, and, thus, the reticent to visit his parents more often.  Guess who's coming to dinner, Mom and Dad!  Hopefully, they will embrace him and whoever he brings home--family is family and we need to appreciate our time together.

40% of migrant workers not going home at New Year.”  These workers are not making enough money and are embarrassed to go home and face their families.  So sad since the family bonds are one of the few strong positives in many people's lives here.

“City braces for festival traffic jam.”  Only 2.3 million cars will use the highways during the week BEFORE the festival begins on 1/31.  Holy high traffic count!

“Airports to handle 70,000 flights at holiday”  Yep, we decided to fly out to Vietnam for a vacation during all this madness.  We are so stupid but hoping to have fun!

Restaurants all booked for New Year dinner.”  With the Avian Flu on the rise here and food safety stories abounding with horror stories, I am ordering grocieres in from the organic grocery, Field's, so we won’t have to go out at all, especially given that the fireworks will be flying around.  Time for a Harry Potter marathon and some homemade vegetable soup I'm thinking.

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