The Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) is fast approaching. As you can guess it will be today’s topic as in so many other blogs. Sadly, I have never experienced it in China as both me and my wife had never time to fly back and visit her family during that period of the year. So what‘s left for someone like us to experience at least something of the real Chinese celebrations? You guessed right, not so much here in Finland but we try to survive with whats available. Here is some of the stuff we can do in this icy country:
Even Helsinki has its own Chinese New Year celebration since 2007. This year the event starts around 3.30pm in the city center. There will be Kung Fu performances, Lion dances, CCTV Gala life on a big screen, Dragon dances, Music performances, Fireworks and a lot of food stalls. As you can see it has some interesting stuff but the problem with the whole thing is that the entire event is outside. Now let me tell you that being outside in Finland during January means temperatures between -10°C to -20°C (14°F to-4°F) and this means it is no real pleasure to be there for several hours. This year we will avoid this event (as we have several times before as it is too cold) because my wife is during that time in her 39th pregnancy week and it would be just too much for her.
Hanging out with friends
Yes, this is pretty much a classic for many Chinese abroad during New Year. What to say except it is most likely a very nice place to be if you are far away from home and want to have good food and enjoy your time with friends without freezing to death in Helsinki center. To be honest, I have never experience such gathering but I heard about it from other Chinese and saw great pictures.
Watching TV at home and overeat on food
This is my longtime favorite during all celebrations in winter time. What is better than being inside a warm and cozy home while snow and ice are threatening human kind just beyond your windows? Right, nothing! This year again my wife and I will be home, watch TV and eat a lot of Chinese food. Here is a little list of what has to be there for us on New Year at home.
CCTV New Year Gala (中国中央电视台春节联欢晚会). This is a pretty popular show as it has according to Wikipedia a viewership of over 700 million. As we don’t have any means to install a satellite dish here to get Chinese TV we just watch it like many other over streaming platforms such as PPS.
Jiaozi 饺子 in all its different forms. Okay, just a couple of them. This year again my wife will prepare some of these delicious little things with meat and with vegetable filling. As she prefers the boiled version of it the majority will be of course swimming in boiling water. Thankfully she also has a big heart and will fry a selection just for me.
Tangyuan 汤圆 will be also joining the food table. These lovely little things you can easily get from most Asian Stores. They are frozen and only need to be put into boiling water. For us we will go for the red bean paste filling and the peanut filling (for me again!).
Sunflower and melon seeds. Nothing is better than these seeds to get every corner of your sofa and rest of the apartment dirty within seconds.
Mandarin oranges. Alright, can’t really explain this one but they just have to be there (probably because of the refreshing taste)
Some Chinese beer. Here it usually fails. In Finland you can only get standard Tsingtao Export for 2.60€ a bottle (or something around that price) and that is just too much so I will most likely end up with green tea and coffee for the entire day. I would love to fly quickly to China, grab myself a pack of Hans Beer and fly back but my finances are not really allowing this option…
What you usually do during Lunar New Year when you are in a foreign country? Any additional tips for us?
Visiting a strawberry farm was the very first activity we did together with my parents in law when they were visiting us in Finland last summer. Okay, not really the very first activity as this was most likely getting home from the airport…
Anyways, why visiting a strawberry farm? There are actually two reasons for this. One, my wife always wanted to visit one and handpick herself strawberries (she loves strawberries) and second, my parents in law could not imagine picking berries themselves and eating them without some very thorough cleaning. Especially the second part seemed to be an impossible task for my father in law due to his OCD. Nothing is ever clean enough for him except he cleaned it himself three times.
But imagine our surprise when he went and started picking up strawberries without gloves and ate them without any cleaning. When my wife asked about it he just shrugged his shoulders and said “It is so much cleaner here than in China”and continued collecting more strawberries. No further information given by him but he looked relaxed while walking those fields and searching for the biggest and reddest berry yet. All my wife managed to say about it was “I don’t believe what I am seeing” and stared at her father.
Besides being busy with collecting and eating strawberries my parents in law were also surprised that there were so many people in the fields instead of just buying the berries from the supermarket. According to mom in law there wouldn’t be many people in China going to the countryside to spent hours on a field picking some strawberries and then paying for them. Later on my wife told me that her parents had never done anything like this before so I guess it was a nice first day in Finland for them.
On a side note: I did not collect even a single strawberry as I was more content filming everything and furthermore my father in law seemed to overcome parts of his OCD as he even touched one of our rabbits, he has not touched a single animal in a long long time.
The closer mom in law’s arrival day for her next visit gets, the more my wife gets frustrated. Not so much by the fact that she will have to endure her own mother for three months, oh no, it’s the calls and messages she receives from her mom. It goes even that far that my wife tries to ignore the calls at some days or not even looking at the messages and the reason is very simple: She knows exactly what her mother will ask her again.
Let me give you an example of a normal conversation those two are having
Mother in law: “You are everyday home, why you don’t call me?” Wife: “Because there is nothing new to talk about, you ask me the same things over and over again every single day!” MIL: “I see, so how have you been lately?” W: “Exactly this mom!! You just asked me the same yesterday and the day before yesterday and all those days before! You think I wouldn’t tell you if really something would happen here?” MIL: “I see, but what should I bring with me? I have no winter clothes yet, what winter clothes do I need?” W: “Again mom! I know already for half-year that you don’t have winter clothes and we will buy everything necessary here, so stop it.” MIL: “Are you sure? What should I bring for my grandson?” W: “…”
And the conversation goes on … surprisingly even though my wife loathes those calls they can take several hours a day.
I am especially amused by the part of winter clothes which comes up in every call. Not just because of the constant repetition of it but more because I know how much mom in law loves shopping (soon she might be a shopaholic). So each time she asks her daughter she tries to get something like a “permission” to go on a winter clothing shopping frenzy. Granted, she needs winter clothes but for the short time until we buy clothes together, she will get some stuff from us.
Do you have similar stories about calling your mom or family?