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Back to Taiwan
"Guess what, Joyce? We're here! We've finally come back to Taiwan!"
I slowly opened my eyes as my mother called my name, then closed the, again. Yawning, I thought to myself, For God’s sake, I was sleeping, Mom! Give a girl a break once in a while, sheesh. Wait…..Did she say we were in Taiwan?! As the realization hit me, my eyes flew open and I looked out the airplane window. What greeted me were the bright lights of night-time Taiwan and the familiar tall apartments and office buildings. Oh, how I had missed them so!
As we got off the plane and exited the airport, I heard a familiar voice call, “Tzi Yu! Tzi Yu!”
I turned around at the sound of my Chinese name. My, it had been a while since I was last addressed by my Chinese name. It was my cousin, who happened to be running towards us at top speed; which, if I may say, isn’t very fast. Breathless, she reached us and said excitedly, “Shing Nian Kuai Le, Tzi Yu!” which translates to “Happy Chinese New Year, Joyce!” And indeed, it was that time of year.
Chinese New Year, as most of you know, is the equivalent of New Year here in the United States. So saying, it of course requires a huge celebration and many parties to commemorate such an important day. Being the year of the rooster, there were images of roosters all over the streets, accompanied by streaming red banners (red being the lucky color), balloons, lucky signs, actual live roosters, and many street merchants, hoping to sell lots of food. Though, to tell you the truth, what really caught me were the live roosters. I hadn’t been expecting that ^-^.
We started heading towards the predetermined meeting place. There, we would meet with the rest of our relatives, who had all gathered to celebrate the New Year. Along the way, many merchants tried to sell us food or good luck charms. I’ll admit I bought quite a bit of food, earning a “pig” remark from my older brother. I simply stuck my tongue out at him.
Wherever we went, there were people celebrating: on the street, on the sidewalks, in the allies, etc. No matter where you walked, there was always someone who was eating a lian gao (sweet rice cake), or maybe some tsao yu (fried fish). I gabbed a couple of those; they were delicious :).
As we reached the center of Taipei, the capital, we started hearing loud, festive music, accompanied by drums and cheering, while a line of “dragons” passed by us, dancing merrily to the music. People dressed in farmer outfits sang to the tune, performing ancient Chinese dances.
They were performing a dragon dance!
We stopped to watch the show while my father explained the significance of the dragon dance. We Chinese believe that we are descended from dragons. Dragons are also seen as a symbol of luck and happiness, as well as rain. Every New Year, the country would always host a dragon dance at the capital, bringing a year of luck and good weather to the people.
Continuing on, we finally reached the meeting spot. It was quite crowded, with people from both sides of my family gathered there. My cousin, Ma Hua, came up and hugged me tightly, saying, “Tzi Yu! Ni lai le!” (Joyce, you’ve arrived!). I was then promply greeted by about fifteen other people. My aunt came up to me and gave me a beautiful package, urging me to open it.
Inside was a pair of wonderfully decorated slippers and a new green Xi Pao (Chinese dress). You see, the Chinese believe that receiving a new pair of slippers and clothes means that you are also receiving new hope for the year as well. Deeply moved, I hugged my aunt tightly and thanked her, saying, “Tsie Tsie, Ah Yi!” (Thank you, Auntie!).
As I smiled broadly and greeted my relatives and family members, my cousin, Ling Shran, poked my lightly, and I turned to face her. In her hands, she held a small red envelope. I knew what it was instantly- it was my hong bao (red envelope), which contained money. The money inside the envelope meant that I would have more luck coming my way, as well as money. When she presented it to me shyly, I thanked her gratefully, flashing a smile. Smiling back, Ling Shran said to me, “Gong Tzi Fa Tsai, Tzi Yu!” (Have a prosperous year, Joyce!)
Looking back, I replied, “Gong Tzi Fa Tsai, Ling Shran!”
Many words and gifts were exchanged that day, most pertaining to granting more luck. Smiles and hugs were given, and happiness was present throughout the day. When it came time to leave, I refused to go back to the airport. Of course, I was dragged along anyways. However, as I sat in my seat and looked back down at the buzzing city of Taipei, I couldn’t help smiling once more.
Chinese New Year is an event that always warms my heart, and every time I go back to Taiwan and celebrate it, I am once again reminded of the wonderful Chinese culture.