Chinese New Year–Have eel, will travel!

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Chickens and eel and pig, oh my!

Walking by the hanging meat, fish and “who the hell knows what it is” on the sidewalk, Thom and I wondered why there seemed to be an increase in the endless bonanza of carcasses on parade.

CHINESE NEW YEAR-duh!  Coming up in a few weeks starting on 1/30, the entire country goes on holiday for at least a week and preparations have begun for some serious partying.  Let the fireworks begin!

We saw some displays of fireworks in Shanghai on New Year’s Eve but besides the large display by the Pearl Tower, not really as major as I would have expected.  The reason I found out from Fiona, my language teacher, is that they save up their firepower all year to let loose during Chinese New Year because if they shoot off fireworks at their home, it will draw good luck to them for the new year—I hear that more is better.  Also, on the last day of the holiday, I’ve been told that all the firework vendors let loose with their remaining stock and the streets are on fire all day/night with indiscriminate and very dangerous displays.  Locals have cautioned us to stock up on food/water in the apartment and stay inside and off the streets, lest we get a rocket in the ass.  Crazy times ahead in Shanghai!

Chinese New Year is the one major holiday that lasts long enough for citizens to return to their home villages and visit relatives.  Virtually everyone has the holidays off from work and, if you do have to work, usually there is added pay to make it worth your while.  Thus, the buses and trains are mob scenes pretty much for days on end and to be avoided at all costs if at all possible.  We couldn’t even get a ticket out of town on Vietnam Airlines until mid-holiday.  More to come on our upcoming Hanoi/Ha Long Bay adventure!

So all these people going home want to bring gifts, of course.  This is the major gift giving holiday, not Christmas.  I see lots more people actually shopping  vs. the usual browsing and food gifts, especially chocolate, seem to be very popular.  Now, I can get behind some Godiva going home to Momma but eel???  We walked down this street by my office and while some of the fish and meat products hanging everywhere resembled something familiar, the really large fish carcass was unknown to me…turns out it is eel.  Those are big ass 4-5 feet eels!  I definitely do NOT want to be near any bodies of water where these suckers are swimming.  Fiona told Thom that people pick out the best eel weeks ahead of the holiday and the shop filets it and hangs it out to dry (in the lovely smog so it has that “smoked” taste)  and then it goes home on the train…imagine what the public transportation smells like with millions of people with their eels and chickens and pigs, oh my!

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Big. Ass. eel.
Sidewalk alive with carcasses!
No need to “smoke” it–the smog takes care of that!

Oranges are also very popular in China as Chinese New Year gifts (and smell much better than eel!) I hear that “orange” sounds like “lucky” in Chinese so gifting oranges, which are sold on every corner, are given especially this time of year.

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Our local vendor where we buy our definitely non-organic fruit.

Many more stories and pictures to come as we experience Chinese New Year for the first time in Shanghai and take off to Vietnam to explore!

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