Celebrate the New Year at “home”

Publish: 2:19 PM, February 3, 2022

Sino Bangla Online Desk: As the 2018 Spring Festival approached, I was surprised to receive an invitation to spend the festival with a Chinese family. I still remember the good memory of the Spring Festival that year.

The story started in 2016 when I met Sun Ding, my first Chinese teacher at the Confucius Institute in Brazil in August. From then on, we gradually built a deep friendship, and it was because of her that I entered a new world of Chinese language and Chinese culture.

In 2018, I received a scholarship from the Confucius Institute to study the Chinese language in Beijing, and Sun continued to teach Chinese in Brazil. She had discussed with her parents earlier the plan that she wanted to invite two of her best Brazilian students, Sun Mulan and I, to her hometown for New Year’s Eve. It was truly one of the best invitations I’ve ever received!

Sun’s hometown is in Xiangfen county, North China’s Shanxi Province, which is not far from Beijing. We decided to go to Shanxi by train, a choice that allowed us to experience a uniquely Chinese phenomenon – the Spring Festival travel rush. After a nearly 15-hour “overcrowded” train ride, we arrived at our destination on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. As soon as we left the railway station, we saw Sun’s father and sister, Yaya, and they welcomed us warmly.

When we arrived at Sun’s home, the first thing we saw was a table of Chinese cuisines. To my surprise, all of these dishes were my favorites. I later learned that Sun had told her mother what kind of Chinese food we like and even what kind of dumplings we like best. We were touched by the sumptuous New Year’s Eve dinner that our aunt and uncle had spent the whole day preparing for us.

After dinner, we sat together on the couch to watch the CCTV Spring Festival Gala. At the same time, we also had a video call with Sun, who is far away in Brazil, which is my hometown. At that moment I felt that their family was also reunited.

We woke up early on the first day of the Lunar New Year and received the lucky money and gifts from Sun’s parents. My gift was a violin model. Back in Brazil, Sun’s parents had told her that they loved to listen to me singing and playing the violin. To this day, I still keep this special gift with deep love and respect, and I would think of these two lovely “fans” every time I see it.

One of the important customs of the Spring Festival is to pay new year’s greetings to each other. After eating dumplings, we paid new year’s greetings to our neighbors and Sun’s relatives as well. We were warmly welcomed during the process. Whenever someone praised our Chinese skills, I always said that it was the result of the teaching effort of our teacher Sun Ding. This made us very proud and also comforted Sun’s parents greatly.

In the following days, they took us to visit Xiangfen and surrounding scenic spots, among which Dingcun village attracted me the most. The village is the hometown of Sun’s grandfather. In the village, we enjoyed the elegant and exquisite courtyard houses, felt the traditional and unique customs, and experienced the simple and peaceful way of life. All this gave us a sense of peace and tranquility. To my surprise, I saw a place where my favorite Chinese food documentary, A Bite of China, was filmed.

I am grateful to Sun’s parents for agreeing to spend an unusual Chinese New Year with two Laowai, foreigners. They prepared everything for us in advance and took care of us as if we were their own children. I really felt like I was in Brazil with my family, safe and warm. At the same time, we had one thing in common: Their eldest daughter, Sun Din, was temporarily away, and my family was 18,000 kilometers away on the other side of the world, so we filled the emotional gap between us. In just a few days, we built a family-like bond between us.

Time passed quickly and we had to say goodbye, which was the hardest part of the trip. As Sun’s parents walked us to the railway station, my voice trembled as I said, “Thank you, mom and dad, see you next time!” That moment was indeed like saying goodbye to my parents at the airport in Brazil before I flew to China.

Undoubtedly, that trip was one of the most memorable experiences I had in China. Every time I look back on it, I remember it vividly and feel warm. The simplicity, kindness, warmth, and hospitality of the Chinese people touched me deeply and I will always be grateful and remember it forever!

This article is written by Santos Heitor Alexander, a Brazilian student studying at the Central University of Finance and Economics published by China Daily.