It is time to write. Well past time, really, but not much I can do about that (aside from rigging the date I publish this under). 2009 is underway, and the Year of the Ox is upon us. Having just crossed from Saturday night to Sunday morning, it is officially New Year's Eve and the country is on the verge of massive migration. Later today, millions and millions of people will take to the roads and rails as they make their way back to their husbands' and fathers' familial homes for the first night of celebrations. On Monday, New Year's Day, they will move on to the wives' and mothers' families. There will be food, and drinking, and fireworks to frighten away bad spirits (you'd think the karaoke would take care of that, but apparently not). People will clean house to sweep away the old year -- but no sweeping on the first day of the new year, lest you sweep away any good luck inadvertently.
For those of us not obligated to follow this drill -- which just means foreigners, really, because everyone else is expected to go whatever distance to fulfill the New Years duty -- this is a holiday of peace and quiet, and a holiday for staying home. For many of us, living among Taiwanese and Chinese during New Years is akin to how a man must feel when his wife goes into labor: we're next to the action, but we're not really doing it. Sure, we get excited for the holiday, and put up red banners over our doors and greet everyone with "xin nian kwai le!", but we are not ringing in a new year that really registers as such. I'm not going to consider myself a year older tomorrow, I won't don red undergarments for luck, and I have no plans to hand out red envelopes of cash to my own children, let alone someone else's. I hope that doesn't sound Scrooge-like -- it's a rich and colorful holiday, and fun to observe, and I love that the two weeks of celebrations are capped off with the charming Lantern Festival which fills the skies with lights. But there remains that invisible barrier between "mine" and "theirs," and it doesn't seem likely to budge.
Our Christmas holidays were busy, but not terribly so, and before that we had family visiting in October and November. This week off from work and school will be a real pleasure: time to catch up on some projects around the house, and catch up with friends over dinner here and there. So often we say we need a vacation after a vacation; with an early Chinese New Year, that's what we've got. Happy New Year, everyone! May the Year of the Ox bring you peace and joy. And maybe a red envelope or two.