Posted by Pete DeMola on 31. Jan 2009

We recently sat down with 21-year-old Beijinger Yang Jiawei to pick his brains about how China's youth interpret the holiday season. The verdict? Some things never change.

What was your first memory of Spring Festival?

I was five years old. My family and I lived in a teacher’s compound on a university campus. I remember it was the first time that I lit off fireworks, and I was scared. We had dumplings and I got 1000 RMB of lucky money.

How about the best memory?

In 2002, my family and I planned to go to Hong Kong. My younger sister and uncle came from New York City and met us there. It was a surprise!

What does the holiday mean to you?

Reunion. The entire family comes back home to feel the love. Adults drink a lot of alcohol. Parents will sit together and drink, discuss recent events and watch CCTV. If my parents feel happy, then I’ll feel happy, too. It’s about eating delicious food and receiving money. But I never got any new clothes when I was younger—my parents were too poor (laughs). No, they just weren’t that traditional. 

How has the holiday changed? For better or worse, and why?

In the 1990s, fireworks were banned here in Beijing, but now we’re able to light them off. And in the past, people would just go home to have dinner. More and more people are now eating out at restaurants.

Do young people go out to clubs on New Year's Eve?

Impossible! Maybe if they had no parents.

Is the holiday becoming too commercialized?

Chinese are becoming more international and fashionable, but the traditions are becoming too boring because it’s all the same. But I like being with my family. The Spring Festival isn’t the real new year—why not just say “Happy New Year” on January 1st?

Have a good transportation story?

I just got back from Ningxia [last week] to give my girlfriend a surprise. I went down to the lobby of her apartment complex, called her and said, “I have a present from Ningxia.” She came down and cried. She was very excited!

What do you think about the traditions of your parent’s generation?

I’m Chinese, so I have to believe in these traditions. I had this background when I was young, but I really love this festival for the reunion, so I feel happy about that.

How about the CCTV special?

It’s boring! In the past, the singers would lip-sync everything. It’s all real now—but still boring. It’s for everyone—not just young people. But since they mostly sing folk music for old people, I’m not really into that. The crosstalk is also boring in the sense that it’s just politics. So why watch? Because it’s a tradition, that’s why.

What are your plans for this year?

The same as every year. But my parents just moved to a new place, so we celebrated there. I wanted to celebrate with my girlfriend, but I can’t due to family things.

Does your family practice any unique traditions?

Actually, yeah. We eat hot pot on New Year’s Eve. Most people eat jiaozi. We have fish bones in the hot pot, and that means reunion. Nian Nian you you is a saying that means we wish every year will become richer.

How about a generation from now: for you, and the country as a whole?

In 20 years, I’ll probably have my own child. At the time, I hope my kid can come back and celebrate with my wife and I. And hopefully, will have fish bone soup. I think that most young people are just like me, and will follow the old traditions. But there is a small group of independent young people who will try to do something different. My friend once tried something more experimental, but it failed.<

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