Thoughts on the Spring Festival
My first Spring Festival in north China was a bit of a shock. Where was the spring? There was snow on the ground and ice on the Summer Palace lake and a north-west wind was blowing. In England, where I come from, we think of the flowers that bloom in the spring; the crocuses and daffodils and the flowering tress - purple lilac, yellow laburnum, rosy horse-chestnuts, pink and white hawthorn or may. In fact we say "cast not a clout till may is out ". That means don't ieave off any ciothes until the may flower is in bloom. By then it's warm, so you won't catch cold if you shed a garment.
Then I had another problem. in Beijing, despite the snow and ice it's often sunny over .he Spring Festival. So I liked to go out; to walk in the snow round the Summer Palace lake or to skate on Kunming Lake. Then we'd co~ne home and find that old friends had called on us whiie we were out. So gradually we iearnt the laws of the Spring Festival. The first day (chu yi 初一 ) is for feasting at home with the family and very ciose friends; the second and third days are for paying and receiving visit So we changed our holiday life style and stayed at home or called n friends those days. Of course we could still go out on chu yi.
These days we don't always stay in Beijing for the Spring Festival ; sometimes we go on a trip to some other part of China. Last year we were lucky enough to go to I-Iainan Island. Instead of skating we went swimming. That was a treat. The sea-water in February was warmer than it is in the middle of the summer in England. That made up for those snowy, icy, windy Beijingsprings.
1983 was another memorable festival for us.A friend of the Naxi national minority invited us to his home, in the mountains in northwest Yunnan , 2 , 000 metres above sea-level. What a wonderful place and, what wonderful people, how hospitable despite being far from wan yuan hu(万元户）! They introduced us to their friends and relatives, as well as to their ancient culture. And it goes without saying that they wined a nd dined us with their fiery hot food.
One very special meal was a picnic by the graves of the ancestors. This was no English style picnic with a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of beer. The Mongolian-style hotpot was carried up into the hills and there was a.regular feast for all three generations. But the first cup of wine was placed by the grave of the clan ancestor. Why shouldn't he join in the fun along with his descendants? Of course there was the usual exchange of gifts. The most precious one I received was a granddaughter - or at least a god-granddaughter nearly one yearold. I had nothing of comparable value to offer in return.
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