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Chinese New Year though foreigners' eyes
Fri, Feb 12, 2010
The China Post/Asia News Network

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Chinese New Year has always been my favourite festival.

I grew up in Hong Kong and this will be my first time spending Chinese New Year as a foreigner, in Taiwan.

In Hong Kong, Chinese New Year is a festival that extends over an entire month, beginning two weeks before Chinese New Year's day.

My family always stays at my grandmother's place for a few days during Chinese New Year and I love spending time with my grandma.

Two weeks before New Year, I would go to the flower market with my grandmother, and she would buy lots of flowers, including dozens of daffodil bulbs, from which we would choose the prettiest to show our guests.

Our whole family would then spend days preparing Chinese New Year food: fried dumplings, rice puddings and other traditional dishes.

We would enjoy a very filling Chinese New Year's Eve dinner with around a dozen relatives.

On the first morning of the New Year, my sister and I would race to utter as many lucky wishes as we could in the quickest manner to our grandma, mom and aunts, almost like a tongue twister competition.

The winner got their red packets first and I always won.

Over the next few days, many relatives would come to my grandma's place.

The young ones would play cards and mahjong and chat, because this was the only time in the year that so many of us could have fun together.

But the happiest thing was to see the big smile on my grandma's face that lasted for the whole week.

Besides going to see grandma, we would also visit other family and friends, which was very much like party hopping.

Everyone seemed happy to see everyone else because of the festive atmosphere.

And have I mentioned the food? Every family's home has all kinds of Chinese New Year foods and snacks that cover the whole dining table.

Every time we thought it would be impossible to finish it all, but in the end, while we ate and chatted, we would finish almost everything before we knew it.

Yes, that means gaining a lot of weight, which I do not particularly like.

But the excuse everyone made was that there is only one week in the year we can indulge ourselves and share so much good food with so many people.

It is a very strange feeling knowing that I am going to spend Chinese New Year without my family.

I was excited but worried about what Chinese New Year in Taiwan would be like, so I talked to some of my foreign friends in Taiwan.

However, their feelings about Chinese New Year were very different from mine.

One of the friends I spoke to was Max Hirsh, who is from upper state New York.

He was a journalist and has been the president of the Taiwan Foreign Correspondent Club for almost two years.

He is now 30 and has lived in Mainland China and Taiwan on and off since he was 19.

He has spent five Chinese New Years in Taiwan.

Max's most memorable Chinese New Year was, surprisingly, in Hong Kong, with a Hong Kong family.

Every morning during the week he stayed, he went to have dim sum breakfast with the whole family and then visited different families, rich and poor.

"It's like crossing the social ladder and understanding the socio-economic spectrum of Hong Kong in a week," he said.

How about in Taiwan, I asked.

He said he would usually go see a movie with his Taiwanese girlfriend and her children because everything else was closed in Taipei during Chinese New Year.

-The China Post/Asia News Network

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