18.1 C
Thursday, March 23, 2023

A new Lunar Year experience

Must read

Flying Dutchman
Flying Dutchman
For detailed biographical information, please check the very first article of this blog. Thanks!

After leaving my native Berlin for good and return to Taipei in the spring of 1999, during almost all Chinese New Year celebrations I stayed in Taiwan’s capital, my favourite city.

The only exception was the period of more than three years that I lived in Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, where I also had spent my childhood and adolescence, from February 2018 to May 2021.

Interestingly enough, it took me until this year to realize that I had never been to a restaurant to welcome a lunar year, the most important time for Chinese people all over the world.

The latest Year of the Tiger came to an end on January 21st, 2023. On the evening of that day, I was invited by my girlfriend and her two younger brothers, to a fancy, completely packed banquet hall in Luzhou, located in the northwest of New Taipei City.

Also present were her sisters-in-law and their daughters, as well as her father. Unfortunately, due to recent health issues, her mother wasn’t able to join us on this special occasion.

The two of us arrived by bus from their home nearby. The quite luxurious venue, mostly used for wedding receptions, was fully booked. The person that had made the reservation for at least one table was clearly stated outside the entrance door of each saloon.

I had been warned early that, despite the low temperatures outside, the air conditioning system would be on to improve air circulation. In the end, it turned out to be ice-cold inside and I was happy to wear a warm jacket.

We had barely sat down at our table when very loud music started playing. Caishen, the God of Wealth worshipped in Chinese folk religion, together with two Nezha, a Taoist protection deity, rushed into the room and began dancing on a huge stage.

Contrary to the West for Christmas, money isn’t a taboo topic during the festivity, rather the opposite. Red envelopes full of brand-new bills are given or exchanged, and even children benefit from this custom.

The food was mostly good, especially the lobster starter, actually a fairly common dish here in Taiwan. Although just like at most of these events, the provided drink didn’t match.

After moving next to a big traditional market, I have almost stopped to consume juices that aren’t freshly made. Therefore, the chemical varieties usually served at local restaurants aren’t an option for me anymore. So, I ordered plain water, but the waitress brought bagged tea….

Again, accompanied by big noise, a small lion dance troupe made their short appearance. Its performers mimic the mighty animal’s movements dressed in beautiful costumes to bring good luck and fortune.

We went on enjoying our meal and chitchatting. The six-year-old nice of my partner, who sat next to me, seemed very interested in me, a foreigner speaking Mandarin, and not shy at all.

Last, but not least, a burly man wearing a brightly colored outfit and an impressive mask appeared on the large corridor dividing the room, moving to quick, dramatic sounds.

Bian Lian, literally “Face-Changing”, is an ancient Chinese dramatic art typically depicting well known characters from the Szechwan opera, where the artist changes from one face to another almost instantaneously with the swipe of a fan, a movement of the head, or wave of the hand.

Guests are generally expected not to spend more than two hours at these events to make space for the next customers. On that day, the staff could leave after that shift to celebrate with their loved ones.

Taking some tasty leftovers home, we went to the apartment of one of the brothers to round the evening off, having snacks and playing games. All in all, it was a rather pleasant experience!

- Advertisement -spot_img

More articles

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest article