quarantine in china

International Teachers Celebrate Winter Holidays in China

Blake Evans

What’s it like to be in a different country during your foreign holidays?

As a young adult, my perception of holidays is ever-changing. My intentions nowadays are to be close to friends and enjoy comfortable social activities. Before, in my hometown, our holidays consisted of family gatherings, homecooked meals and seasonal gift-giving. Now recently, since I've moved to live and work in China, the holiday time is more about developing my social life. Some social circles will plan gift-giving activities. Other times I will go to my friend's place and unwind with warm tea and baked goods.  

EF teachers also plan time together during the holiday weekends. If your friends can cook you’re in for a treat! Sharing recipes and eating together is a great way to make memories. At other times, going out to a popular restaurant is a good way to make smiles happen. In Shenzhen where I live, there are many popular Hakka-style dishes to enjoy. Some dishes include fried tofu, grilled green and seafood options.

What’s different about the holiday season now that you’re in a Chinese city? 

First, there is far less snow! At home, Canadian winters often have drifts of snow which create the winter wonderland landscape made so popular. In my youth, I've thoroughly enjoyed walking along the streets at night watching big snowflakes float down from the sky. In the bright light of the morning, the snowflakes sparkle with many colours. So, here in Southeastern China, I've had to replace my admiration for snowflakes with the wonderous colours of flowering trees. (No harm done, since these big trees are marvelous.) The weather becomes cool in December which signifies the winter season. It’s enjoyable for anyone who prefers outdoor activities. Many large flowering trees are called 木棉树 (mu mian shu) since their seed pods open to expose large cotton-like seed tufts. After January the seed pods will explode open and these white tufts, holding seeds, will be seen drifting through the air. ( Hmm.. Maybe I do get to see snowflakes after all, it’s just they’re fluffy seed tufts instead.) 

What special activities do you like around the holiday season? 

Twice now, I’ve toured Chengdu city in Sichuan province over the New Year holiday. I’ve heard from my local friends that pandas prefer this time to play. I’ve chosen the cusp of December and January as my travel time to see these lovely creatures and sightsee at local sites. At this time, the La Mei hua (腊梅花) flowering shrubs are also blooming. The fragrance is outstanding! These small yellow flowering shrubs can be found in the People’s Park in the centre ring of Chengdu. Since the outside weather is cool, it’s a good time for hiking at famous mountain trails. On my recent trip, I went the distance to travel to Le Shan to see the Giant Buddha figure (大佛). As a spiritual enthusiast, I was amazed to see something made on such a large scale. Be sure to learn about the local history from the Sichuan people. The rest you can get a sense of from going there yourself. Within Chengdu City, the interior designs of hotels and hostels are quite unique. So far, these rooms are my favorite places to stay. These rooms are cozy and perfect for drinking tea after a day out.  

How can we see the Giant Buddha?  

You can travel to Le Shan from Chengdu by high-speed train. The tickets sell fast on holidays. Plan well in advance! From the train station take a taxi to the site entrance. Walk the rest of the way and explore. Pack lightly and bring a water bottle. There’s a vegetarian restaurant nearby if you fancy! You can see the top of the figure from a cliffside lookout. To see the full figure from the base up, you must hike down the steps and go to the riverside lookout. If you’d prefer to see the figure from afar you should try the boat cruise! Both tickets for hiking or the cruise are between 70-80 yuan. International staff can make appointments with an English-speaking tour company.

(Tips: After a few trips with @Chinahighlights, I would recommend their travel guides. Ask for their guide Fifi * in Chengdu city!)


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