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February 20, 2015
Creative Living
The Biggest Celebration in the World Starts this Week
by Dian Thomas

This week 1 billion 300 million people will stop their everyday life for one of the biggest events on earth.

My first experience of the magnitude of Chinese celebrations was on a trip to Hawaii. My friends invited me to go to the Chinese New Year party in the middle of Honolulu. I was so excited to experience something new and big.

China was the inventor of fireworks, and I did not know that every Chinese party is accompanied with tons and tons of fireworks. The noise at this festivity was so loud I had to cover my ears, and the end I was wishing there was a place to escape the incredibly loud noise.

Two years ago I had the opportunity of being in China during the New Year. It was an amazing experience to be there and really see what goes on in person. I learned that it is nearly impossible to get a train ticket before and after the Chinese New Year as everyone returns to their homes for the two-week vacation.

This year, Chinese New Year begins February 19 and will last for two weeks. Virtually everything — and I mean everything — closes for the first week, and there are a few stores that will open for the second week. Chinese people head for home where they will enjoy the New Year with fireworks, family parties, and get together with friends and associates.

I will never forget the first night of the New Year when I was there a couple of years ago. I left on a train that was to go from Xian (where the Terracotta Warriors) are to Beijing, the capital of China. Our train left the station in Xian about 8:00 PM. I lay awake for hours in my sleeper car looking out the window watching all the fireworks in town after town after town.

It was so amazing to watch all the big sprays of fireworks go into the sky and then to hear the noise that came from the loud explosions that went on for hours.

The tour that I was leading left a couple days later and a dear friend invited me to fly to Chengdu and experience the New Year with her family. My first party that I went to was a party with her mother’s family. She told me that her father’s family had met the day before.

We met at her parents’ apartment the next day, which was on the seventh floor of an old apartment building. They got great exercise going up and down, as there was no elevator in the building, which is really typical of Chinese apartment living.

Here the next day her father cooked a meal for her immediate family, which consisted of her grandmother who lived with her parents, her parents, she and her daughter and me. Carol’s (her western name) husband is also a tour guide and was on a tour to Dubai. The group was small but the experience was special, delicious, and memorable.

The kitchen where all of our food was prepared was about three feet wide and four feet long. It included the hot plate where everything was stir-fried, a small counter that held the ingredients for each dish, and a tiny sink. All of the spices that created his delicious dishes were lined up in the small window well.

I had to stand in the doorway to see him cook, as there was not enough room for two in the kitchen.

During the next two weeks you can look for local Chinese celebrations in your area. In Salt Lake each year there is a special Chinese New Year celebration at Cottonwood High School. This year it will be on Feb 21st from 7 to 9 PM.

If you have a local Chinese family in your area it might be nice to invite them to dinner to share with you this tradition build around families and the important to getting together with loved ones.

On May 1 to May 11th Dian Thomas will be leading a bike tour to the Netherlands. The group will be riding bikes about 20 miles a day through the amazing fields of tulips, down the famous canals past all the quaint windmills. Come join her to a trip of a lifetime.

To learn more, go to or call (801) 917-1131.

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