Photo Essay: The First Days of Chinese New Year with the Family

So long snake and hello horse! We’ve all been busy welcoming the new year these past few days. Much like the firecrackers and fireworks that boom across the village in the evenings, the holiday has been both exciting and overwhelming.

I’ve already attended four huge dinners with family, where the dining tables often become a cacophony of laughing and shouting (often because of those drinking games involving baijiu). I’ve learned to steel myself for the inevitable topic of children — which used to be a question (“When will you have kids?”) and has now become a command (“This year, you must have a kid!”). And strangest of all, I actually witnessed a grown man slumped unconscious in a bamboo chair before our doorway because he drank too much baijiu (sorry guys, no photo of that!).

Still, amidst all of the drama of these past days, I can’t help but feel incredibly loved and appreciated by our family here. Just this evening, the mother of one of John’s cousins stroked my arm lovingly, saying how much she liked us and how she hoped we would return for another dinner soon.

While I relax and recover during those few and precious quiet moments in the day, I’m offering you a peek into the start of our year of the horse through photographs. Again, wishing you a successful horse year! 马到成功!

My father-in-law opens the gates to the family home just before midnight when the new year comes.
The family sets off firecrackers and fireworks just outside the gate to welcome the new year.
According to the tradition, we always start the new year off with new clothes! Here, John and I have laid out our never-before-worn outfits for the first day of the year.
John and I show off our new outfits for the new year outside the front door of the family home.
During Chinese New Year, you can always be sure to have lots of visitors at your home! Some of our first visitors in the new year include a cousin and grandparents.
The number one activity during Chinese New Year? Eating! These past few days have felt like a dining marathon with one huge meal after another. We ate… (lunch at the grandparents’ home prepared by John’s oldest brother — it’s tradition for the men to do the cooking on the first day of the new year).
…and ate… (dinner at little uncle’s home just next door)
…and ate…(a huge and raucous lunch at our home which led to at least two people becoming so drunk they had to go to the hospital)
…and ate! (dinner at an aunt’s home)
But most of all, we felt so loved and appreciated! Here, John poses with an aunt and cousin — this was the aunt who couldn’t stop doting on both of us. It’s so nice to be back home.

18 Replies to “Photo Essay: The First Days of Chinese New Year with the Family”

  1. Yes, we only did one party this New Year, but had fun. Our friend’s mother cooked nearly 30 dishes, with some of us guests adding some as well. Most of the Americans there sat away from the crowd and were amused/bemused/befuddled, but us Chinese/pseudo-Chinese (read: married to) had a great old time.

    Xin Nian Hao to all!

  2. Lovely family gathering. This year it was just me and my wife the entire New Year but at least my mother in law will be joining us thrusday for a few months. I actually can’t wait to have a visit to China again just to have a few dinners with the whole family.

  3. @ Jocelyn.

    I am in agreement with your in-laws that you must have children. I want to see your child. May you have big, bright and beautiful children soon.


  4. Your’s experience about 春节 is perfectly the same as mine! This year it was may first time to celebrate this festival with a Chinese family and I need to say, I was awesome. And I totally agree with the eating part. No matter where you go or who visits you, you need to eat! haha, 吃饱了

  5. @Kalvinator

    lot of kids? I think anwer is one kid, if she giving brith in China; if ALOT?
    Thats not possible in China, but in Canada. no ideas about US, recently heard having more than two kids in states, more likely ending up like poor people living in dumpsters or street.

  6. @Bruce, I can’t agree more, it’s absolutely the best part!

    @Ryan, wow 30 dishes! That is some party! Xinnian kuaile to you as well!

    @Timo, hope you have a nice visit with your MIL! And I know what you mean about the food…even though I’ve been here over two months, I’m still not getting tired of it!

    @Fred/Kalvinator, aiya! And I thought it was only my relatives here urging me to have kids! 😉

    @Andi, thank you so much! Xinnian kuaile to you as well!

    @Alex, how cool you had a similar experience! I saw you were in Nanjing? Is that where your boyfriend/fiancee is from?

    @cheng yong, well, as to having lots of kids in China…maybe you’d be surprised but it does happen. I once met a taxi driver from Anhui and he confessed that everyone in their village had multiple children (like 4, 5, 6, even 7 kids). And here in the countryside, a lot of folks still have two (if first is a girl, they’re technically allowed to have another…yes, I know, I know, it’s terrible!).

  7. Whatever you and John decide to do, good luck is all I can say. Personally I’d like some kids, but at the moment mission impossible due to a lot of elements such as no job, and where I live driving is a necessity.

  8. I found your blog just yesterday and I love it already… I’m italian and here amwf couples are so rare: on the streets just bad looks (both from Italians and Chineses), and nothing on the net… your words and experiences made me feel a little less lonely:)
    Why did I begin read it? Cos my bf’s family officially invited me to spend next Chinese New year at their home (after one year and half of “why do you date this girl?”). At the same time his grandmother brought my pictures to a monk to check “how about my future” (this thing I still don’t understand…) and asked which time we’ll get merried. First reaction: happiness (is the first time his family recognises me as his girlfriend), second reaction… I got crazy. I know so little about his culture… I’m scared to make some huge mistake. The point is: I can’t control my behave about what I don’t know, what is normal for me maybe is not for them… I think I will stress my bf for one year about Chinese “galateo”;)
    Come back to the main point: all these words to tell just one thing… THANK YOU (and thanks to all the people who write on this page) to give a non-asian point of view on several everydaylife-situations! It is very helpful for people like me (who fell in love with the person at first and not with the culture… I try my best but I’m still far to understand his culture)
    I wish all the best for you, your husband and your love.
    PS: sorry for my poor english but I felt I had to reply somehow. Kiss!

    1. That’s fascinating, Marta! Didn’t realize Spain had that tradition (and I have spent time in Spain myself). But as far as I know, I don’t think it’s international. At least, in the United States we don’t have this tradition. But hey, maybe I can start a new trend there someday? 😉

  9. Wow, my Chinese New Year’s seemed a LOT more low-key compared to yours! We mostly stayed in our home, eating with the immediate family, which at most was my husband, his parents, his younger bro, and his older sis and her two kids. Even on Chinese New Year Eve, dinner was about 7 people with no 白酒. I’m jealous of all the yummy dinners you got to eat!

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