By: Lydia Williamson – Junior, Visual Arts and Journalism
China shuts down for almost an entire month in order to celebrate the New Year. As a foreigner, it can be difficult to wrap our minds around why there are no restaurants open, why there are no taxis on the street, and why everyone travels back to their hometown. The importance of this festival correlates with the importance of family and tradition in the Chinese culture.
Luck or fortune is a common phrase during the week of festivities. Most people hang red signs on their door inviting fortune to be in their home. Personally, the signs worked as the good fortune found me. A gracious host family took me and my friends into their home and allowed us to experience spring festival first hand. They treated us like family and in return I am forever grateful to get a glimpse into their world rich with traditions.
Day one, we met Yvonne, a Chinese girl about our age. She introduced us to her mother, father, younger brother, grandma, and uncle. The women of the family cooked us a wonderful home cooked, Chinese-style, lunch. After we toured the ancient parts of Suzhou. We walked around the city for a few hours and ended up at an extremely fancy restaurant where we were treated to the biggest, most delicious meal of my life.
Day two, we went to a temple to show our respects. At the front gate we were met by a monk who filled us in on what we were looking at. Afterwards, we were taken to a private room to worship. We each lit incense and followed the monk by doing a series of bows and kneeling. I felt so much honor to be able to experience a moment like that.
Day three, four, and five, we spent time with Yvonne and met some of her friends. We went to new restaurants together and explored new parts of the city. Her father took us to where he worked as a police chief and then we went to ride a Ferris wheel at a small amusement park. Through our conversations, we became great friends sharing jokes and goofing off. More importantly, we were able to swap information about each of our cultures.
Thanks to this incredible experience, I have so much appreciation for the Chinese spring festival. From the red lanterns laced across almost every street to the nightly fireworks, the entire experience is awe inspiring. I also have so much appreciation for my Chinese host family. Although they were incredible hosts, I’ve come to learn that the majority of Chinese people are just like them, willing and enthusiastic to share their culture with me.