Slinking into the "Year of the Snake"

This weekend, we leave for Shandong, Guo Jian’s home province, to “guònián 过年”or (literally) “to pass the new year.” 2013’s lunar new year (also called “spring festival”) falls on Sunday February 10th, so it’s time to go home for the holidays. It will be my fifth Chinese New Year in China.

I found myself on a horoscope site today that said that the “Year of the Snake” provides a time of great healing, slow and steady progress, attention to detail, and profound internal analysis and reflection. I have thus decided to spend this blog consciously acknowledging my honest feelings about leaving for the holidays in a few days:

<sigh> I’m dreading it.

Last year, I got “permission” not to go because Echo was less than a month old and we were still in our 坐月子(zuòyuèzi)period of postpartum recovery. I was so relieved. At the time I thought that my relief to stay at home stemmed from birthing fatigue. Now I know that it was more layered than that.

The relief was about not having to spend three whole weeks in a cramped two-bedroom apartment with nine adults, two dogs, two cats and a new baby. This year, it’s also about having just had a six-week journey solo-with-baby in North America for the Western holidays; I’ve come home needing rest and recovery. As a traveller in my profession, I have always chosen my home as my vacation spot. Some people recharge on a beach; I do it cleaning my fridge. I’m a homebody at heart. A hermit.

Another thing last year’s relief was about is boredom. Now that I’ve been living here in China for several years, I’m no longer the wide-eyed cultural explorer that I was in the beginning. Chinese New Year has become a bit… well, predictable and, regardless of how much distraction I pack in my bags, I’m invariably bored—bored silly.

We now have Echo. She’s the youngest addition to Guo Jian’s family and everyone wants to see her. Some members of his extended family haven’t even met her yet! So, even though I really don’t want to go this year, I certainly can’t deny my child the experience. Likewise, she’s too little to go without her mommy! My next three weeks are, thus, spoken for.

People ask me why we go for such a long time. Well, as self-employed musicians we’re not beholden to a work schedule requiring our imminent return to the city, which therefore makes us beholden to a birthday schedule. Guo Jian’s grandfather’s birthday celebration is always one week before New Year’s. Then, generally we stay until “十五”or “15”—the mid point in the first new month—as this is a celebration in and of itself. Paper lanterns are released into the night at a raucous “Festival of Lights” in his home city. Oh, and that’s also Guo Jian’s father’s birthday. We can’t very well come for his grandfather’s birthday and then leave before his father’s.

I find it slightly annoying that Guo Jian has been able to get out of coming to Christmas with me for so many years when I haven’t had that option for Chinese New Year (except for last year, that is). My brain tells me that the geography is the culprit, not the person, as Chinese culture surrounds us whereas Western cultural traditions—like Christmas—are not a big part of our social tapestry here. Couple that with the cost of airfare and he has a good excuse.

Still.

Since this is the year of the black water snake (specifically), the horoscope site also said that we should:

“Celebrate the 2013 year of the black Snake with dark colored clothing. Honor this transformative beginning with a day of positive thoughts.”

I had to laugh at that. Aren’t the colour of clothes generally considered a reflection of mood? As I write this, dreading the holiday, I’ll note that I’m also wearing my favourite black sweatshirt. Hhhmm. But, in the spirit of the coming year and its “well-balanced element combinations,” here’s a head start on positive thinking:

When Echo is a few years older, I’ll send her off to Shandong with her daddy for Chinese New Year and then take my own vacation to somewhere quiet… and that just might be my house with a fridge that needs cleaning.

And, just like that, I’m all perked up!

Doesn’t take much.

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