Today is the last day of the lunar year of the tiger. Meaning for the Chinese it is essentially “New Years Eve.” I was excited at the prospect of spending the Chinese New Year in the biggest city in China, until I realized that CNY is actually quite boring – especially for a newcomer who doesn’t know many people or have family in the area.
The traditional Chinese way of celebrating the beginning of a new year is actually quite similar to an American Christmas in that most typically spend time with family, travel “home”, eat a large meal, drink and stay in. In fact, not only have most of the people I met in Shanghai left for the holiday, but I heard on the news that this week is considered the biggest annual “human migration” in the world. They estimated that during the course of this week over 1.1 BILLION people will be traveling for the holiday.
As I had nothing else going on, I set out again today to explore some of Shanghai on foot. I decided to head to Xintiandi, another little group of old Shanghai buildings that have remained and been turned into touristy shops, posh bars and overpriced restaurants aimed at foreigners. I was impressed with the buildings – not really with the rest. However, I did enjoy taking in my surrounding on the way there & back, as well as the nice dark chocolate latte I had in comfy chair in a warm coffee shop with an English Shanghai newspaper and small magazine.
"Paulaner, Munchen" Wait, which country is this? What continent am I on? In Xiantiandi.
The tiger in the Chinese Zodiac is energetic, strong, powerful, overly confident and courageous; a crazy year perhaps for the Chinese, as was the supermarket this afternoon. This will make the upcoming year of the rabbit a welcome breath of fresh air. As it is calm, peaceful and associated with home and family, artistic pursuits, diplomacy, and keeping the peace. Much more like the back street of Shanghai I explored earlier today.
I was surprised at how quiet the streets were, most shops closed for the holidays, people weren’t going anywhere today – unless they were late getting out of town to visit relatives. The weather was nicer than it has been in quite some time (up to 54 degrees Fahrenheit/11 degrees Celsius); thus, the sunshine & warmth did bring some folks out to the street, to sit on stools in front of their homes and catch up on neighborhood gossip, many had their laundry out to dry and bedding airing out. My only advice is to be sure not to walk under freshly hung laundry – you will be dripped on! It was a social, relaxed setting on the streets of Shanghai. Not what I have become used to.
Laundry out, shops closed.
Catching up & enjoying the sun
All of the fruit shops were still open though, with fruit baskets made up for the New Year celebration lining the streets. I even saw some apples decorated for the occasion!
New Year's apples
Firecrackers and fireworks have spontaneously been heard for several days now, but the frequency and duration is quickly increasing. Occasionally, they cause me to almost jump out of my window seat as they go off right outside my apartment building. I notice my fear of heights (or falling) kicks in if I look down from my window – looking out is fine, but if I try to look below me the 28 stories get to me. Tonight the city (from what I hear) will not sleep (without earplugs or soundproof walls) as the fireworks will be continuous all through the night.
Looking out is good! From my 28th floor bedroom.
Another odd thing I saw on the streets today was several small fires where people were burning trash, what looked like some clothes and who knows what else. I’m not sure if it was merely cleaning up and getting rid of unwanted items or if there was significance to this.
Fire in the street
That’s a wrap for the year of the tiger. Happy Chinese New Year from the 老外in 上海。（Laowai, foreigner, in Shanghai)