Xin Nian Hao – Happy New Year – 新 年 好
I had a fantastic New Year’s Eve. It was, without a doubt, the best day I’ve ever had in China. Nothing else even comes close. I slept in, always a good start for me, rolling out of bed at the crack of 10:45. I putzed around the house for a while, cleaning up here and there, as it is one of the traditions of Chinese New Year. It is believed the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the preceding year and makes the home ready for good luck. Brooms and dust pans are put away on the first day of the year so that luck can’t be swept away. I didn’t bother, since there was absolutely no danger of me sweeping again.
After cleaning, I went to buy a bottle of wine for dinner. I found a decent Cabernet for my friends Mr. Chen and Ms. Zhou. They had invited me over to celebrate the traditional New Year’s Eve reunion dinner with their family. I also took along some of the new chopsticks I bought earlier in the week as a gift for the grandparents.
After fighting off tears as I watched Mrs. Zhou put the Cabernet in the fridge, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood before dinner. In the span of about half an hour, three different families invited me in to join their celebrations. I think they all assumed I must be lost and lonely. I politely went inside each of the ground-floor apartments, made small talk as best I could, and was made to feel welcome and important in each of the modest homes. Each time, I had to explain that I had my own dinner to go to and had to eventually break away under protest! On the way back to Chen’s, I came upon this firecracker "waste" in the alley behind his home.
Burning firecrackers is an important part of any holiday in China but especially so during the New Year celebration. It’s believed that the deafening noise from the firecrackers will chase away the evil spirit Nian (Year). I eventually made it back to the Chen home just in time for dinner. There was fish, beef, pork and chicken cooked in a variety of ways. I ALMOST worked up the courage to eat a chicken foot. In fact, I had decided earlier in the day, that if someone asked I was at least going to give it a shot. I am glad now that no one asked. We finished dinner before 8 and it was time to head to the city.
I recently met a young musician named Fang Quan. He works at one of the local music stores during the day and plays in a band at night and we’ve become fast friends. Turns out his band is the house band at one of the few live music venues in Liuzhou and the kid managed to get me tickets to a sold out New Year’s Eve show. This is young Fang Quan, playing bass and singing “Suzie Q”.
With his glasses, Fang Quan gives off a bit of a Roy Orbison vibe, but in a Chinese cool kind of way. Quan is an amazing musician. He plays bass and lead guitars, keyboards and drums and he sings, all very well. I’ve heard John Fogerty do this song live and not as well as I heard it last night. The next shot is of the lead guitarist, Blue. Before the show, he was very shy, even reclusive. Once the lights came up he was all business and into it big time. I caught him here tuning up before the show. After the show he was so juiced I couldn’t shut him up!
The big sumo-lookin’ guy on the right is the Manager of Club Xin Yi Bao in Liuzhou. He’s performing a cross talk routine here with another performer. In addition to the live music, the club offers up a true variety show with comedy routines, a DJ and plenty of song and dance numbers with beautiful women.
This guy was a prince, allowing me to shoot anything and anywhere during the course of the evening. A true Jack of all trades, he at times played MC, DJ, and sang with the house band as well as performing in most of the comedy sketches. Oh, and he drank. A lot. The night passed by much too quickly but I managed to get a lot of fun photos and met some good people. Just after midnight, the confetti and booze was flowing and some of the aforementioned beautiful girls danced in the New Year on stage.
So yeah, that was a pretty awesome evening. I have a lot more photos on my Flickr site, some of the band were a lot of fun to shoot and I’ll be adding more over the next few days. You can click here to check them out. I wish for each of you a healthy, happy, prosperous Year Of the Ox!