The signs of Chinese New Year were already going when we first arrived a week ago. Red lanterns hanging here and there. A tree with small oranges on it in front of a building. A blow up red arch with twin dragons on top. (These arechs are ten feet high and fifteen twenty feet long..) In the center of town, they were decorating a dragon with flowers...blooms placed so close together that they looked like paint, two different shades forming yellow scales with brown deliniating lines.
But now, it is everywhere. Red lanterns--or strings of them--hang from every tree. Doorway have red banners around them. Every institution has it's own orange tree, many seven or eight feet tall, hung with the red paper envelopes that people put New Years gift money in.
Merchants all up and down the streets are selling these red paper envelopes, complete with your favorite design or with Pleasant Goat (every child's favorite character.) The street of the market near the house is filled with small orange trees for sale and a few big ones. Brightly colored tents have popped up everywhere...selling everything under the sun. Sugar cane merchants are everywhere, and on the corner a man is selling tiny pet turtles and goldfish to children.
Today, we went to our first Chinese New Year celebration. It was at the orphanage. The entire group of 13 children from the Elementary School, along with Auntie, and us were bussed to the orphanage we had visited Tuesday. There, some people spoke with Ping-Ping about her life in America for about fifteen minutes. Then, we were brought to the party area where we were given seats of honor. I had a nametag with the characters for Ping-Ping MaMa. (I wanted to keep it, but it got wisked away.)
The head of the orphanage, a high muckimuck, was there and gave a speach to all the children, big and small. Then the small children--mainly special needs boys--were taken elsewhere, and the party began.
The older children and dignitaries--there were a lot of these--all joined together in making dumplings.Making dumplings together is apparently a basic part of Chinese New Year. The head Muckimuck himself came over and showed me how to do it. I fear I was a slow learner, but my very last dumpling was pronouned 'very good' even though it was just middling.
The dumplings were taken away to be cooked, and the feasting began. There was chicken with that wonderful garlic stuff, goose, a small bird the name of which no one could translate...guinny hen, maybe? Pigeon? I don't know. Fish made in an odd breaded with bones still in it style, with the head and tail present. Huge plates of dumplings, and some vegetables that came out at the end, when I was too full to enjoy them. At the end, the cute little oranges we see on all the trees.
There was far, far too much food for anyone to eat. I saw them putting it in containers. Hopefully, the children will eat it for several days.
It was all eaten with very thin plastic bowls and cups...with tea. Plus there was a small swallow of red wine in glasses for the dignitaries--we were among these, but I had pepsi in mine and Ping-Ping, who was still not feeling well, had hot water. (Which is what she drinks for four days every month.) We used both glasses for toasts...clinking overly soft plastic cups of hot tea against each other and saying Happy New Year (well, I said it in English) over and over, as people circulated to toast each other. My daughter ran far and wide toasting all the children and workers she knew and liked.
Then, there were gifts. Red envelopes with chocolate coins in them and gift bags filled with nuts and candy. I thought we probably woud not get any, since we were not the needy orphans, but they actually presented us with ours first.
Everyone came by to jabber at me that they were so thankful to me for my kindness to my daughter. I contantly gave credit to the very good daughter. But after a while, I sort of caught on. I was the representative of what every other child there...maybe 200 in all, big and small?...wanted: a family. It made me both happy and sad to contemplate it.
At the end, the bus stopped at another building and the elementary school kids signed a paper and were given 100 Yuan each. Ping-Ping and I were not given money, because this was official government funds...I was relieved. Private individuals giving us money is one thing...but we certainly did not want to take it from orphans!
So...that was our first Chinese New Year celebration. More to come!