Jenny Goldman, an 11-year-old American girl fond of Disney movies traveled to China to spend the Spring Festival with her parents in China, who are working in Beijing.
The Goldman family planned a good old-fashioned Spring Festival celebration: a dinner of Peking duck followed by watching the new year's gala special on China Central Television (CCTV).
During the day Jenny lingered around stalls selling delicate handicrafts at a local market. To her surprise, the vendors greeted her and bargained with her in fluent English. A mandarin collar dress that she bought won her a lot of compliments from lookers-on.
She hopes to come to China again next year when she is 12 years old so that her father can send her a red belt that Chinese believe brings good luck to a person who has the same zodiac as that of the current year.
Jenny’s dad, Robert Goldman, a business associate at an Internet company, spent his first Spring Festival in China in 1994, making dumplings at a friend’s house.
Goldman noticed the Chinese character “fu” (luck) was turned upside down on the wall, and hesitantly pointed out the “mistake” to his friends. They laughed at his bewilderment.
In China, people regard the turning upside-down of the character “fu” as the coming of good fortune according to their same pronunciation “fu dao”. Here, “dao” means “come”.
Since his first Spring Festival in China, Goldman has been a big fan of the festive occasion that gives Chinese people a seven-day reprieve from work to enjoy all forms of holiday revelry, from the age-old temple fairs and dragon dances to morning-till-night shopping in department stores and outdoor markets.
For the past week, workers have been busy adorning the streets of the Chinese capital with bright red paper lanterns and colorful flower displays. “Chinese cherish the hope that the beginning of the lunar new year will bring them joy and success,” Goldman said.
As a foreigner who looks forward to taking part in the traditional customs, he is struck by how the holiday has been adapted to modern life. “In past years, I received lots of new year’s cards from Chinese friends. But now they send me warm wishes via the Internet!” Goldman said.
He recalls the advances in computer technology he has witnessed in his tenure in China, saying that in the early 90s Chinese were using old-model computers, available only in offices and better-off homes; now university students are conducting research on sophisticated PCs in their dorms.
Goldman especially likes Beijing’s numerous temple fairs, which used to come second in the popularity stakes to the deafening, and sometimes dangerous, fireworks displays that are now banned except at authorized suburban spots.
He gets into the holiday spirit when mingling amongst the fairs’ capacity crowds and can easily rattle off a long list of mouth-watering snacks available from ubiquitous food vendors.
On his holiday table at home, Goldman serves the traditional Chinese white liquor “er guo tou” to his friends. And yet more and more local Chinese, he has noted, are flocking to the foreign-funded groceries to buy imported wines. There also are fewer vacant seats at McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food outlets during Spring Festival than normally, Goldman observed.
“The time has gone when Chinese families sat around the TV at holiday time,” he said. “Some of my neighbors have already gone on trips, others are hanging out in bars and bowling alleys.”
Some 80 percent of 40,000 foreign dwellers in Beijing spend the Spring festival. Like Goldman’s family, they feel the progress of China’s modernization while enjoying the traditional Chinese culture.