Chinese holiday celebrations

Jul 1, 2018

Happy Dragon Boat Festival 2018

Celebrating Chinese holidays with kids!

In my mind, Dragon Boat Festival — or duanwujie, as it’s called in Chinese — is a somewhat nebulous festival. I mean, to some extent, I’m going to view all Chinese holidays from a remove, because they are often family activities, and my family isn’t here. Our first year here, our friend took us to a boat race, fed us zongzi and told us the story of Qu Yuan, and in the years since then, we’ve pieced together more of the story. But this year, by virtue of working in a kindergarten, where they are passing all this stuff on to the next generation, I got to see some customs that I hadn’t before had access to. A lot of rituals that have to do with keeping the body healthy and safe. And, my colleague Katherine came out to explain the holiday on video for all us waiguoren.

The biggest thing I learned — that after the fact seems totally obvious — is that Chinese holiday celebrations can be quite personal. They vary from region to region, and even from family to family. To that point, in the video, Katherine conflates two stories that are both part of the origin story of duanwujie — Qu Yuan, poet, and Wu Zixu, king’s advisor. They are both men who died by suicide in a river, according to lore, and are somehow connected with the holiday. Regardless, I’m beginning to think that neither of them are actually all that central to the holiday as it is actually celebrated by real people; every time a Chinese person has shared with me their legends, it’s because they looked something up on the Internet. Not because it was something connected to something they or their family did.

Anyway, next year, I’ll probably learn even more about it. Including that I was wrong about everything I concluded this year.

Jun 10, 2018

Happy Children’s Day 2018

Let’s dance!

We celebrated Children’s Day this year with a blowout, school-wide performance. Theme: 12 animals of the zodiac. Fun: as much as you can have at a children’s dance recital.

May 1, 2018

Labor Day is a perfect time for a picnic in the park

Outdoor meat is universally a celebration

In China, watch on YouKu.

I met Jessy on a bus, who introduced me to Michael, who invited me to Xi Jiang’s BBQ this Sunday! It was a lovely afternoon of grilled meats and outdoor karaoke. The sun chased us around the lawn a little, but we found refreshing shade in a small grove of trees.

This particular spot of green is right next to the “new bridge”. It’s a piece of land that Peter and I are very familiar with … from the window of the bus that took us in and out of the city when we worked at the countryside campus of Tianfu Middle School. As we drove by, we’d spy people out cavorting there, and wonder about the attraction of hanging out next to a major road. You can see the approach in this video that we took of that bus ride in 2015.

Having now spent an afternoon there, I can say it’s actually quite peaceful. The bridge is far enough away that it just makes for a nice view, and the landscaping is arranged so that when you’re on the lawn, you’re hardly aware of the traffic at all.

Of course, that area across the “new” bridge is hardly countryside at all any more. In the past few years, there’s been SO MUCH construction: apartment complexes, shopping malls, more schools. The People’s Hospital of Luzhou — where Peter and I get our health checks to renew our visas each year — is moving to a new facility out there, Jessy told me. I’m not loving this urban sprawl; the charm of Luzhou is that it was a little more contained (and downright walkable!) than China’s bigger cities. But, as long as the city keeps planning parkland alongside its concrete monstrosities, at least it will still be pretty. And we’ve got friends with cars.