Around the world, Chinese in the Diaspora and in China are spending the start of the Lunar New Year (February 3, 2011) by celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Rabbit!
Families gather to eat hearty meals, give red envelopes with lucky money inside to children and unmarried young people, and set off firecrackers (originally to ward off evil spirits, now to celebrate the new year). Here in San Francisco, over the course of the entire month there will be street fairs, lion dances, the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant, and the largest Chinese New Year Parade outside China.
But for hundreds of millions of Chinese in China, the Lunar New Year (a.k.a. Spring Festival or chun jie 春莭) is also a time to leave the cities where they work–in factories or on construction sites or in other jobs that city dwellers don’t want–and return home to the countryside where their families must live and wait. This is the only vacation these migrant workers are allowed in order to visit their families. Some families are separated for years on end. (For example, see the essay Waiting for Chinese New Year written by a 14-year-old girl whose parents have not returned home in three years.)
This mass movement of Chinese workers is the largest annual human migration in history. This year according to People\’s Daily, an estimated 230 million Chinese will be traveling home…mostly by train.
In honor of these arduous journeys, I am posting below a series of links to articles and videos, including the trailer for the award-winning documentary “Last Train Home,” that convey in words, pictures, song and video this annual phenomenon.
Video for the song \”Afraid to Go Home for the New Year\” (with translation of the lyrics provided)
Running Naked Man … Chinese internet sensation (he’s not really naked, but this article shows how one man became an internet sensation after he waited in line for 14 hours for train tickets home only to be told he couldn’t buy any. He stripped down to his underwear and confronted the ticket office personnel at the train station…and inspired Chinese with his chutzpah!)