Stuff I Really Kind of Like About My Life in China: Chinese New Year

January 5, 2012

Before we get this thing started, I should probably mention that I’ve never actually experienced the Chinese New Year in China.

But I have a pretty good feeling about it.

From what I’ve seen so far, Chinese New Year involves lots of shiny stuff.

And dragons. (2012 being the Year of the Dragon, dontcha know.)

Really, any holiday that has shiny stuff and mythological creatures is all right in my book. (Although, I’d be even more psyched if they replaced all those dragons with unicorns. I mean, come on, now. Unicorns totally deserve their own year. Heck, unicorns deserve their own century. Is there someone I can talk to about this?)

For the past couple weeks now, all the stores in my area have been gearing up for the big event by putting out all their special Chinese New Year’s goodies.

There are lots of festive clothes.

And lots of fish-shaped stuff as the fish is a symbol of wealth in Chinese culture.

(Little known fact: fish are very wealthy in China. They always drive the fanciest cars and date hot supermodels. That’s why, if you eat fish in China, you should be careful to check its pockets for spare change before you start eating. Okay, that is totally not true. Everyone knows fish don’t carry spare change. Instead, they hire humans to do that for them. Duh.)

There’s even special lucky, red underwear to wear on the big day.

With all the sparkly stuff and special holiday goodies, it feels a lot like Christmas. (Except I don’t remember wearing special underwear for Christmas. Or did I just miss that day at Catholic school?)

And, while all that stuff is pretty cool, the best part about Chinese New Year, in my opinion, is that it’s on January 23rd this year.

This just so happens to be the day before my birthday, which means I get to totally pretend all those fireworks are for me.

Plus, this means I have another two and a half weeks before I have to kick off my New Year’s resolutions. I figure since I’m living in China I should really do like the locals do and observe January 23rd as the official start to my new year. Because I’m all about living like a local…  except when it comes to speaking the local language… or eating chicken feet like the locals.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m gearing up for some big changes this year. I have decided that 2012 is totally going to be the year I do super challengey stuff – like all the stuff I told myself that I was totally going to do last year.

But this time I really mean it.

This time I even typed up an Excel spreadsheet of all my super challengey resolutions. Because nothing says, “I’m going to make 2012 my bitch” like an Excel spreadsheet.

One of my major goals for the year is to get back in shape.

I know I joke a lot about not being able to fit into my pants. But I’m not joking any more, guys. I’ve gained a lot of weight since I left Japan two years ago.

I had to buy a whole bunch of new pants when I went home last year in January after eating my way through Southeast Asia. And now even those pants are starting to get a bit tight since I started eating my way through China.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed my time eating my way through China. Or, at least, just eating my way through lots of pork products. Because, seriously, what’s more fun than eating lots of pork?

Mmm... pork.

Unfortunately, I have one of those bodies that doesn’t take too kindly to the reckless shoveling of pork into my face.

My body is the sentimental type – the kind that’s prone to hold on to every little extra calorie.

I suspect it’s saving these calories up for a rainy day — you know, on the off-chance that the rain might deter me from going outside to get more pork. (This has never happened, I’ll have you know. I am just not so easily deterred. My body should know that by now.)

Or it’s possible my body is keeping all those calories on hand for the apocalypse — so as to save me from having to eat cockroaches… or chicken feet. In which case, I really hope those ancient Mayans were on to something. As my hips and thighs are totally prepared for the end of the world.

I’ve done a little bit of running and working out since moving to China last year, but I haven’t done nearly enough rigorous exercise to combat all the rigorous dumpling eating I’ve been doing.

I’ve also been trying to eat more healthily since I have my own kitchen now and can make my own meals, but all the salad I’ve been eating hasn’t really made up for all the non-salad items I’ve been eating.

Mind you, I have no lofty ambitions to fit into smaller Chinese-sized pants. That would require major surgery and the possible removal of a few limbs. And I really kind of need my legs, thankyouverymuch.

I just really want to get back into shape. And maybe start running races again. And, hopefully, not be forced to wear my bathrobe to work as all the waistbands on my pants have exploded.

I am very gung-ho to get my big challengey year underway. (I mentioned the Excel spreadsheet, right? I mean, come on, how much more gung-ho can you get than an Excel spreadsheet? I could have done a Word document, but that seemed a bit non-committal to me.)

But my little resolution to get back in shape is going to have wait for a couple weeks.

Because I have some serious eating to do.

Tomorrow, I’m catching a flight to Japan, where I plan to eat nonstop for the next week and a half.

I’m going to need to have some of this:

Yes, that is a big hunk of butter in my ramen. Why do you ask?

And some of that:

Kushi-katsu. (Rough translation: deep-fried stuff on a stick.)

And, yep, these:

Okonomiyaki. (Rough translation: YUM!)

And, alright, a few of these:

Chinese dumplings. Done the Japanese way. (Fried. Again, YUM.)

And, of course, lots of this:


And when I’m not eating, I’ll probably be drinking some of this:


And maybe some of this:

Yuzu & shochu

And, possibly, a little bit of this:


Mind you, I do plan to get a little exercise. Because dancing at karaoke totally counts as exercise, right?

Pink pleather cop outfit worn for optimal fat burning.

Then I should be back in China before the Chinese New Year and ready to ring in 2012 with a nice brisk jog around the block and some broccoli.

Okay, and maybe one or two teensy little dumplings. Just in case those Mayans were right about 2012, I would hate for my thighs to be totally unprepared for the end of the world.

What are your big, challengey resolutions for the New Year?



I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On January 5, 2012 at 3:58 pm Kent @NVR said:

    I fully support delayed resolutions. As a matter of fact, we’re doing the same thing in our house right now. February is looking good though 🙂

    The butter on the ramen,,, makes me like you even more.

    Have a great time in Japan!
    Kent @NVR recently posted..How To Get Over a Slump

    • On January 5, 2012 at 9:45 pm Sally said:

      Awesome. I say make your own new year. It’s best not to force these things, you kno.
      And, yes, the butter ramen is a big deal in Hokkaido. I don’t know if they have it where I’ll be going (Tokyo & Osaka), but I may have to try to find it!

  2. On January 5, 2012 at 8:02 pm Theodora said:

    One lot say “gyoza”, the other lot say “jiaozi”, we say “Vitamin P”. What are thighs for, anyway? Running?!
    Theodora recently posted..Yes, You Really Do Need A Week in Beijing

    • On January 5, 2012 at 9:44 pm Sally said:

      Vitamin P? What does the P stand for? Perfection?
      In Japan, it’s pronounced “gyoza” (with a hard g) so I always have to stop and remember where I am before I try to order them. Usually I just end up pointing, though. That seems to work just as well. 🙂

  3. On January 5, 2012 at 8:21 pm Joseph said:

    Definitely not eating chicken feet – my mom used to scare me with them when I was little, pretty sure I might need therapy…one of the biggest challenges of this year would be to kickstart my new blog, which will be all about book, and it would be an honor if you will put your amazing input when it will be done ;)…another challenge will be to get in better shape – I’m not getting fat just floppy…and speaking of which, I totally recommend a website called ; this chick has some kick-ass workouts that last under 20-25 minutes but trust me, you will hate her, it’s brutal, but the results show really fast…not to mention you can do those exercises in the comfort of your home and after the assault on your body you can crash on your couch 😉 win win situation if you ask me 🙂
    Joseph recently posted..Changes

    • On January 5, 2012 at 9:41 pm Sally said:

      I’d be happy to provide blog input. But, you know me, it will most likely be, “More unicorns! More sparkles!” 🙂
      Thanks for the workout suggestion. I usually like to work out outside — like walking or jogging or biking as I find the scenery keeps me from getting too bored. Plus, I like to embarrass myself in public. But maybe I could augment that with a little inside humiliation.

  4. On January 5, 2012 at 8:59 pm Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said:

    Xin Nian Kuai Le!!!!!! I’m so jealous, even though I’ve been to China a bunch of times I’ve never celebrated NY there. I can’t wait to see your posts about your experience.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..France & Italy With Trafalgar Tours: Day 6 (Part 1)

    • On January 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm Sally said:

      From what I understand, it’s a big family holiday, so I’ll be interested to see if there will be any big outside celebrations like we have in the States for our New Year’s or if it’s mostly families just hanging out at home. Either way, I’m sure there will be plenty of fireworks!

  5. On January 6, 2012 at 10:34 am James in Phnom Penh said:

    Sally, if you REALLY want your resolutions to “take”, you’ll need to go hardcore and turn that Excel spreadsheet into a Gantt chart, complete with anticipated dates of completion. haha. And no, “whenever it gets done” simply will not work. I just got to Bangkok for a 2 month contract and promptly signed up for an awesome rooftop pool AND cable TV… Guess where I haven’t been for the last week?
    James in Phnom Penh recently posted..NextGen Hamster iPhones – Where Does It End?

    • On January 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm Sally said:

      I do have anticipated dates of completion. I am planning on leaving China in June (and this time I really AM going!) and everything needs to get done by then. I have to give myself a deadline or I will never get stuff done. (Hence, pretty much all of last year.)
      Enjoy your rooftop pool & cable TV. I may just have to show up at your door. 🙂

  6. On January 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm Val said:

    I once asked for gyoza at a Chinese restaurant in London, much to the waiter’s amusement!

    Enjoy Japan. I will be there in ten days and eating pretty much the same, subbing gyudon for ramen.

  7. On January 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm Eileen said:

    Wow, Japan. That’s cool. My husband can speak Japanese. 🙂

    I can’t wait for Lunar New Year. I hope you’ll have an awesome Chinese New Year, as well. Enjoy Japan! Cheers!

  8. On January 7, 2012 at 2:52 pm choi kum fook said:

    You have known a lot of Chinese cultures by now, great attempt! Follow up,you may learn to sing some Chinese New Year songs in Karaoke! And, try to speak a bit Mandarin. Then you will become “Half Chinese Girl”. Ha Ha! Miss Sally, have a great time in Japan and a happy Chinese New Year in China!

  9. On January 7, 2012 at 8:05 pm Tom said:

    OOOOH loving the new blog design, it’s pretty! I, too have a sentimental body – Christmas has been unkind to me.

    I spent last Lunar New Year in Taipei and it was fabulous. I’m going to try and hunt down somewhere near-ish where I am at the mo (northern England) that’s having a celebration. Either that, or I’ll just sit and home and stuff my face with Chinese food.

    Good luck with eating your way through Japan. A whole post dedicated to sushi, perhaps? With lots of photos? In an adorable sushi place which has like a conveyor belt pretty please?

    • On January 8, 2012 at 12:29 am Sally said:

      Well, you’ve twisted my arm. I guess I will just have to gorge myself with some sushi then.
      And, thanks, for the compliments on the blog design. I keep on mooning over it, myself. Yes, I am a grown woman. And, yes, I totally have a crush on my blog design.

  10. On January 8, 2012 at 1:03 am Sarah said:

    My resolution?

    Used words like “challengey” more often. Way more often.

    Can’t wait to hear about Japan, lady!
    Sarah recently posted..The Time I Wasn’t Ready for India (and I Blame it All on Hockey)

  11. On January 8, 2012 at 8:28 pm Ken C. said:

    Happy New Year of the Dragon!

    I had a challenging resolution, but the sight of those [delicious?] chicken feet snacks derailed my train of thought…but, I’m a big fan of gyōza, so I could resolve to eat more gyōza! And, drink more “Sapporo Super Dry,” which goes PERFECTLY with all Japanese foods!

    As for dragon-year resolutions, I am sorely lacking in [ahem] red lucky undergarments of any type…perhaps I could pair a set with a “pink pleather” vest & tie outfit? Just the ticket for ushering in the new year.

    Pass the fire crackers!

  12. On January 13, 2012 at 7:53 pm Priya said:

    Ahh I love it! Question: If I move to china.. is it vegetarian friendly?

    • On January 13, 2012 at 10:17 pm Sally said:

      Good question. I do have a few friends who are vegetarians & they are able to get by, but, unfortunately, I don’t think China is very vegetarian friendly. Of course, it depends on where you live. In the bigger cities, you’d be able to find more vegetarian friendly restaurants. But where I live where it’s mostly small mom & pop shops or street stalls, you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find something without pork in it.
      Of course, if you lived here & had your own kitchen you could pretty much do whatever you want. The supermarkets are awesome here and have tons of fresh veggies, tofu, etc.

      • On January 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm Priya said:

        Thanks! The thing about me is.. I don’t cook.. at all. I mean I can microwave things and boil water.. but that’s about all that I can do.

  13. On January 27, 2012 at 12:22 pm Kieu ~ GQ trippin said:

    I want me some special lucky, red underwear! :X
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..Video: Zorbing in Rotorua

  14. On February 21, 2012 at 6:14 am Ceri said:

    I guess my New Year challenges are to make the most out of every experience by saying ‘Yes’ to people more. Now that I’ve settled into my appartment, it feels too easy to say ‘Nahhh, I’m gonna stay in and … do nothing.’ I definitely need to be getting out there more.
    Ceri recently posted..Return to Blogging (with a Vlog)


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