We are a little over a week away from Chinese New Year. China goes on holiday on February 2nd (night before Chinese New Year or 除夕 (chu xi)) for a full week.
One must be deaf and blind not to be aware of the coming festivities, the most important (and the start!) of the Chinese calendar. The bright reds and gleam are plastered all over the city and the new year songs set on an annoying repeat in malls and restaurants. Vendors and migrant workers are readying to head home (or have already done so to avoid the crush of peak travel). “Be back in a few weeks.” When? “We’ll let you know.”
This past weekend, I made my way to Fuyou Lu Wholesale Market (福佑批发市场) located next to Yuyuan Gardens (豫园), to pick up some Chinese New Year decorations. The market is well-tuned to all major holidays all over the world, especially Christmas and Chinese New Year. All goods are manufactured in Guangdong province, whose tagline really should be “Guangdong: Manufacturer of all tinsel and other crap to the world”
On December 25th, all Christmas related decorations were hauled away and by December 26th, the market was decked in red on all corners of the roads and in the first floor of the building. Trinkets ranged from lanterns and mock firecrackers, stuffed toy rabbits in varying designs and sizes, paper decorations of rabbits (since it is after all, the Year of the Rabbit), fishes (a play on the greeting 年年有余 – to have excess/(rhymes with fish) each year) to characters of wealth (福), spring (春) and other good wishes.
“We sell to the end of January, after that, everyone shuts down,” a vendor tells me, charging me RMB 15 (USD 2.30) for a two-piece wall decoration of a giant gold rabbit. Barely minutes later, I watched a woman toss RMB 8 (USD 1.20) on the table for the same thing.
Only a week before Chinese New Year, the crowds were relatively tame. Last year, I bought my wares 3 weeks in advance to ship back to Singapore. I had literarally fought my way through rushing hordes in narrow aisles. 1 hour of frenzied shopping later, I emerged triumphant with 2 bags, my hair askew, 1 glove lost and eye makeup smeared from the shoving. By the second day of the new year, I noticed most of the decoration had started to fall apart. C’est la vie.
This time, lesson well-learnt, I walked away with only a paper deco and a string of silk-sewn zodiac animals. Still, the ruckus was fun if not a cheery way to get into the mood for the new year.