My husband and I met in Shanghai in June of 2004. Of course, it took a while before we became a couple, but we were definitely together when it came time for Chinese New Year in February 2005. By then, I had been living by myself in Shanghai for many years. I moved there from my hometown in northeast China to chase my dreams of big city life. When we met, I was living in a small apartment on the eighth floor, with no elevator. My future husband was NOT happy about that! I had almost no kitchen and didn’t really know how to cook much, especially a holiday meal. So I had another plan. I laugh a bit when I hear someone say Chinese food. To me, there is no such thing. China is a huge country, and every region has its own special taste, texture, seasoning and ingredients. In Chinese, northeast translates to Dongbei, and that style of cooking is my comfort food. Dumplings, fish, sweet potatoes, pork, flat beans and others are the taste of home to me. My husband was a bit surprised that I didn’t eat rice with every meal. In fact the food of my area is very much meat and potatoes.
So I felt lucky that just around the corner from my apartment was a small but authentic Dongbei restaurant. My plan was, we would have our Chinese New Year dinner there. I talked to the owners a few days ahead of time to arrange some special food and activities. In my home, the big tradition for the holiday was that everyone joined in to make dumplings. These have to be done just right, with the correct shape to signify the good fortune everyone hoped for with the New Year. The owners had a tray set up with wrappers and filling and utensils ready so we could make our own dumplings right in the restaurant. My future husband jumped right in and started to make some. Of course, they were oddly shaped, didn’t quite stay together like they should and maybe had a bit too much filling, but I didn’t care. I just thought it was great that he got into it and tried his best. He ate a bit of every dish I ordered and liked most of them. Other customers were staring at this strange foreigner and the restaurant workers tried to talk to him and were laughing at his work, but we all had a great time. My husband had done a lot of travel for his company and was always very respectful of other countries and cultures which made me so happy.
I remember it was raining that night, but after dinner, we still walked along the wet streets in my neighborhood. We bought some sparklers and stayed out until midnight so we could light them and wave them around while we watched and heard the huge fireworks display that always takes place that night. We were acting silly and giggling and I felt like a little girl again. I think that was the time I really felt I could have a future with this man. Here I was, 2000 kilometers from my home, family and friends but for the first Chinese New Year in many years, I didn’t feel alone at all. Everyone knows that holidays can be very difficult on people. If you’re alone they can make you feel even more by yourself. And even if you’re with someone, but maybe not the right someone the added stress and pressure around a holiday can make or break a relationship. I’m happy to say, that on that Chinese New Year 10 years ago, it was the beginning of my new life and I’ve been loving it ever since!
I hope you can share your holiday stories in my comment section. What were your hits and misses, your bet memories or those times you wish you could forget? Talking with and getting to know my readers is just about my favorite thing about having this blog so keep in touch, thanks for reading and Happy New Year!