The Spring Festival

Even though it is still freezing cold, the tree is up in our foyer, the streets are decorated and the excitement has been brewing for weeks for the Spring Festival.

Last time I was at school one of the students asked me what my favourite festival was so I told them all about Christmas in Australia then asked them what their favourite festival was.

Most of the children said their favourite festival was the Spring Festival and they were keen to tell me all about it seeing I was about to experience my first Spring Festival.

Here is what they told me about the Spring Festival:

* We get a holiday from school.

* We get new clothes.

* We clean the house to sweep away the bad luck.

* We get together with all our family.

* We get a red envelope with money in it.

* We all make dumplings together.

* We stay up until midnight to welcome the New Year.

* We eat dumplings at midnight.

* We let off fire crackers.

Sounds like a lot of fun to me so I am looking forward to taking part in the Spring Festival and celebrating the beginning of the Year of the Dog.

Leo has been busy visiting the local villagers that the company rent the cropping land off to wish them all a Happy New Year. He has been giving out big gift boxes of flour, rice, cooking oil, milk etc which means so much to these people.

It is very basic living in the villages that really has to be seen to be believed. The villagers may not have much but they always have a smile for you so it is a good feeling to be able to give them something.

The Chinese people must be doing something right in the way that they live as Leo visited 3 people over the age of 100 one afternoon. This little poppet in the photo with Leo is 103.

On New Year's Eve I went for a big walk, so many shops and restaurants were closed, some of which will be closed for up to two weeks. The streets were deserted which is such a strange thing to see in Beijing. A lot of people have left the city to travel to their home towns to spend time with their family.

I was invited to a Chinese New Year's Eve party and told to wear something red or something Chinese so my trusty old red scarf got another outing. When I arrived everyone was sitting around a big dining room table making dumplings. We didn't wait until midnight to eat them though, they were fried and we ate them with our dinner. Like any Chinese dinner I have been to it was a feast.

We ate, drank and danced the night away seeing in the New Year but not with a display of fireworks as I was expecting. In Beijing there was a ban put on all fireworks due to the pollution and safety concerns. My friends who have lived here for years said the fire works had gotten out of hand and people were just letting them off everywhere. They said it felt like living in a war zone. We are all so happy with how the air has cleared up so we don't mind not having any fireworks.

Leo, on the other hand spent Chinese New Year's Eve at the farm and said he could see fire works in every direction from early evening until way past midnight.

The next day as Leo was driven through the village to catch the fast train back to Beijing, the streets that are usually a hive of activity were deserted, apart from the rubbish from the many crackers that were let off the night before.

So there you have it, my first Spring Festival. I feel lucky to have been apart of the celebrations and learning more about the Chinese culture.

If you are born in the Year of the Dog you are valiant, loyal, responsible, clever, courageous and lively and this is your year!

To all my fabulous family and friends, born in the Year of the Dog or not may this be a wonderful year for you filled with happiness, love and a little adventure.

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