Happy Chinese New Year! – the Year of the Dog

February 16, 2018 is the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dog.  For our world full of dog lovers, definitely this is going to be a year of love and friendship.

Yeah, we already had a very good beginning.  During the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics, the South and North Korean players teamed up.  They walked proudly into the stadium in ONE team, under one flag.  They shook hands, took selfies, and shared the laughs together.

Some could say that, it may be just a show, or a gesture.  I think this is a good sign.  Talking to each other is much better than the confrontations and arms race.  After all, they share the same language, and similar culture (put the political systems aside).

At the end, we are all humans, no matter who we are as an individual.  Caring about each other is our human nature, isn’t it?

What is the Chinese New Year about?

Chinese New Year is about family reunion.  No matter how far away, they try to get home for the holiday.  You can feel the holiday spirit through the busy traffic at the airports, train stations, and on the freeways.  Going home to celebrate the New Year is a must, no matter how much hassle the travel is.

And they have to buy gifts, a lot of gifts.  Gift shopping is not just about spending money.  It’s a huge project that requires tons of time, and soul searching.  What does Mom want?  How can I please Dad this year?  Uncles, Aunts, the list goes on and on.

The saga is just like our Christmas shopping.  The only difference is that, train is not the primary transportation in US in many places.  We either drive or fly for the holiday.  Imagine, bringing those beautifully wrapped boxes of gifts and taking the over-crowded trains in China.  Good luck.

Okay, the gift boxes may not look perfect at the end of the train rides.  But, what matters the most is, they are finally there.  It’s about family getting together, and enjoying the time.  A lot of home-made and delicious food, wine and champagne, lots of laughs, and old stories, for sure.

Quite a lot of washing and cleaning is done.  Houses are decorated for the holidays.  The primary color is red.  It signals happiness, good luck, good health, and good everything.  The big red lanterns are hung up in the air.  Kids are playing the firecrackers, and smiling.  Adults are visiting neighbors, and saying hi.  Mahjong games are everywhere.

At the same time, people celebrate the arrival of spring, hope, and love.  Many weddings are scheduled right after the Chinese New Year.  So, the holiday is also the economy stimulating time.

The down side of Chinese New Year:

Chinese New Year is fun, in most of the part.  But it has challenges as well.  Especially for the young singles, the parents and relatives could start nagging again: “Do you have a boyfriend / girlfriend?”

If yes, that does not shut up the conversations.  A can of worms is opened: “When are you going to get married?”  “When are you going to buy an apartment, and a car?”

If they are already married, the question is getting even to the nerves: “When are you going to have a kid?”  “Prefer a boy or a girl?”  Here we go.

The conversations are more like “catching the train”.  Nobody wants to be left behind, just rush, follow and do what others do.  Keep up with the Joneses.  Sounds familiar?

Sometimes, the young folks are so fed up with the nonsense questions, and ask themselves:  “Why am I here?”  The parents are too nosy, and their “love” could be suffocating to the kids.  Are the parents entitled to ask any questions they want to about their kids?  Where is the personal privacy?

Now I realized that, I have left China for too long.  Probably I should shut up and stop judging the traditions.

It’s still a great holiday:

I loved it when I was a kid.  Right after Chinese New Year, we started visiting relatives.  At that time, every family was poor, and didn’t have spare money to buy gifts.  As a result, the gifts were home cooked food, such as dumplings, stuffed steamed bread, meat dishes, etc.

I liked that tradition.  Each family cooked differently, and the flavors varied.  It was more like a food exchange.  No food or money was wasted.  Nowadays, people have more money, and usually don’t bring food over anymore.

What do they bring?  It could be clothes, soft drinks, fruits, snacks like chocolate or cookies, wine, or simply money (mainly for young kids).  Kids’ pockets are getting fuller, and the adults’ wallets are becoming thinner.  Yeah, money flows around within the family under the unnamed protocol.

One year, some relatives brought over vitamin supplements for my dad to boost brain power.  The product was called Brain Gold or Brain Platinum.  I was just laughing about the silly names, as it sounded like credit cards.

This year, it is just one day between Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day.  My family decided to combine the two holidays, and celebrate them together.  Yes, we are frugal: 1 + 1 is still 1.  We are going to enjoy the American buffett.

Happy Chinese New Year!

May the Year of the Dog bring love, friendship, and peace to each of you, and to this world.

Have you heard about Chinese New Year?  Does it mean anything to you?  Do you think 2018 will be a year of peace, considering the latest progress of the relationship between South Korea and North Korea?

Take a look at my eBook, a mini-memoir on Amazon: “DAD’S BICYCLE: Journey of A Chinese Family”.

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15 Responses

  1. Josh says:

    Hi Helen, yes I’ve heard of Chinese New year! My fiance and I went to China last year for me to meet her family and it was exactly as you described. Since I was born in the US many of the traditions and holidays are different from how I grew up but I still love them. I find it fascinating being with someone from a different culture and I’m slowly learning Mandarin to become more immersed in it. My fiance Xiao has taught me a lot since I met her including saving money and frugality. So I’m very grateful for her this Valentine’s and new year. I love seeing your posts, keep up the great blogging! And happy new year!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Thank you, and Happy New Year! It’s cool you visited China last year with your fiance. Yes, it is very different over there. Learning the language is great, and helps a lot to get to know the culture. In terms of money and frugality, the older people there tend more to save, but the younger generations know better how to invest, and enjoy the money as well.
      – Helen

  2. GYM says:

    Happy CNY Helen! Hope you had a good buffet!

    Is there usually special food that you cook or eat during the lunar new year?

    I didn’t know gifts are usually given, I thought it was just money in lucky envelopes!

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Happy CNY! Thank you. When I grew up, the meat and flour was very limited. At that time, there was some food that we usually could not afford except the CNY, like dumplings, stuffed steamed bread, fried pork with skins (very fat and tasty), meat balls, etc. That’s the main reason I liked the CNY as a kid. Nowadays, people eat whatever they like daily. Around CNY, they may make more varieties of dishes.

      • Retire Early Helen says:

        Just to clarify about the gifting. It seems the gifting between adults occurs only when visiting each other. If they are living under the same roof, it looks they don’t buy gifts for each other.

  3. Ms ZiYou says:


    Have a great new year, and let’s hope 2018 will be a less tumultuous and more peaceful year.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Happy New Year! Yes, peace is always a great thing. Sometimes it’s fascinating to see how people could overcome the differences, and come together for the common good cause.

  4. Caroline says:

    Happy Chinese New Year Helen! I didn’t know shopping was involved too.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Thank you, Caroline. Happy Chinese New Year! Yes, the consumerism is in China as well, as people’s income is going up there. So is the waste of stuff and money. Gifting is an art over there, and it could mean love and care within a family, showing off wealth, sugarcoating the people who have more power (try to get favors in return later), etc.

  5. Joe says:

    Happy Chinese New Year! My relatives were buzzing on social media last night. It’s too bad we live so far away. Chinese New Year is a lot more festive in Asia.
    Here it is a non event for us, unfortunately.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Thank you, Joe. Happy New Year. Yes, it is a big festival in part of Asia. My college classmates were greeting each other on the social media. Even some silent folks spoke up. Feel great to hear from old friends.

  6. maggid says:

    Happy New Year!
    Thank you for the wonderful post.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Happy New Year, Maggid. Thank you for stopping by. The new year brings hope, and the spring is on the way.
      – Helen

  7. Steve says:

    Happy Chinese New Year Helen! The year of the dog will be a good year!

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