Chinese New Years Eve

Nicholas Quirke was thrilled to be making a toast to the entire party of the New Years Eve family meal he was attending on 11 February 2021. He had been welcomed by his Chinese hosts and it was only right that he share how honoured he was to be at their celebration. The group consisted of Mr and Mrs Guo, Peng’s uncle and Aunt and their son, his cousin and new wife. Though he had met the parents before he was still a little nervous about how the day would be as they did not speak English unsure about what the conversation would be like with the additional guests. His concerns were slightly amplified as somehow, even though they lived the closest to the venue in Xidan they were the last to arrive and a little late. This was due to the frenetic morning they had finalising the preparations for New year which demanded that there was nothing dirty left to go onto the Year of the Ox and so it required another clean of the apartment dusting, hovering and mopping as well as laundry. Completing the work meant that they had still not finished by the time they should be sitting down to eat. This required a cycle dash to get to the venue and he arrived a little sweaty and out of breath. Any worries he may have experienced evaporated swiftly as he was made to feel welcome by everyone and especially Peng’s cousin, Wu Jieyu, who worked for the National Scientific Space Centre who had come bearing gifts of presentation sets from the centre, of pins and key rings and magnets. They added in a rather smart bag and a handful of bespoke ‘Year of the ox’ face masks. With his penchant for dressing up for occasions he had worn a Tang Dynasty jacket and it was agreed that he looked more Chinese than the locals. During the meal he ascertained that the majority were members of the CCP, though it was apparent there was nothing oppressive about their views and their attitude was extremely liberal, and only himself, Peng and Peng’s aunt weren’t. The 5 members at the table then toasted and welcomed him. For every toast that was made they were knocking back the liquor ‘Huangjiu’ (yellow wine) brewed from rice, glutinous rice and millet. It is customary for families to return to their home towns for New Year, but as people had been asked to stay put, dinner with family was de riguer for 2021. Jieyu’s father was from Inner Mongolia and extended an invite to Nicholas to go there. It was a great meal, with splendid food and entertaining company and it was disappointing when it came to end and everyone went their separate ways. He and Peng went for tea in a nearby bar before going back to the apartment to pack a few things for their overnight stay at Peng’s parents. It was another custom of New Year’s Eve that families made and ate Jaozi and he was particularly delighted to be invited to get involved. Ir was however a little like the ‘Generation Game’ when contestants were given a demonstration of a skill and then had to go it alone and be judged by the expert. It was fun but his efforts were terrible. When it came to eating the dumplings he was very pleased to discover that he selected the one with a coin in it, heralding an affluent year ahead. When midnight came then were watching the television gala, the equivalent of the uk’s Hootenanny. He wished all Xin Nien Kuai Le and then took to his bed and sleep.

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