Home for Spring Festival by Tracy

0   6   0   0   0
Tracy_amily hanging up red stuff
Tracy_cozy red decorated room
city 2

Last year, I was living in Shanghai as a freshly married woman to a Tianjin man. I joined the largest human migration on earth and traveled north for Spring Festival and chose to bring my new family gifts of rice wine, smoked pork shoulder, sticky rice infused with osmanthus, and a shameless re-gift of Ferrero Rocher chocolates. While traveling, I felt unified with the Chinese locals. I jostled with fellow riders and endlessly shuffled my bags. Once seated on the high-speed train, my aching shoulders were grateful for the relief. Glancing around at my fellow travelers, I imagined what it would be like for them once they arrived at their stop. I envisioned doors swinging open to raucous greetings and wrinkled smiles, and realized this cumbersome journey was completely worth the hassle. 

Now that I live in Tianjin with my husband, there’s no need to travel. However, I use that memory in preparation for the onslaught of visitors. In my family, the men traditionally do shopping, cooking, and cleaning. My role is to…well…wait dutifully for someone to tell me what to do. So far, I’m pretty good at setting the table, snapping group selfies and offering unsolicited advice. 

With so many visitors planned, our family insists on three staples for a festive atmosphere:  food, decorations and sophisticated porcelain bottles of baijiu in elegant packages, innocently filled with the highest alcoholic content possible. As my husband puts it; This is how northerners save money on their heating bill

For decoration, we purchased diaoqian er 吊钱儿, literally meaning hanging money, which are red papers with auspicious elements hung from the tops of doors and windows. The tradition is that to keep the bad luck god away from your home, hang up torn red notes at your entrances. Torn money will make the home appear poor and the god of misfortune will not enter.

We hung the diaoqianr in every room of the house, and for added flair, hung two spinning, glowing, red lanterns in our living room window for the neighbors to enjoy the atmosphere. It reminded me of the cheery glow of Christmas lights from my childhood.

Chinese New Year represents the coming of spring, the first of the twenty-four solar seasons. My husband’s family has always celebrated this change of seasons by filling their home with flowers. We ventured out to a flower exhibition center the size of upper Manhattan and navigated the aisles for three hours. My husband insisted on comparing the prices of nearly every vendor to make sure we didn’t spend 25 RMB for a plant that should only cost 15 RMB. I was just grateful for the warm and cozy greenhouse effect.

We came away with two traditional and symbolic plants. One was the narcissus(水仙shui3xian1), which represents prosperity. Supposedly if they bloom on the first day of the new year, they bring good fortune. The other was a kumquat tree(金桔树 jin1ju2shu4)-the fruit’s color resembles gold nuggets or coins from dynastic times. 

kumquat tree 

(金桔树 jin1ju2shu4)



You may have heard that dumplings, fish, and spring rolls are eaten during CNY, but do you know the line from a spring festival ballad: 二十六炖大肉 ? It means on the 26th day of the final month of the old year, stew pork! In our family, this equates to hongshaorou and meatballs. The name of the meatballs sounds like an idiom that means everything is steady and stable. As meat factors heavily into our holiday meals, it’s been a losing battle trying to follow a vegetarian diet.  In fact, I’ve had to revise my practice to ‘flexitarian’, as sometimes hunger just wins over integrity.

One vegetarian dish that we enjoy is called 拌豆腐丝 (shredded tofu salad) –it’s light, refreshing, and quick. Preparation appeared to be quite easy, so I asked my husband to tell me the recipe. How can a country renowned for mathematical skills have such a vague and cryptic recipe culture? “Mix until you can smell the vinegar.” “Stir until the broth looks like red tea.”  And the classic, “cha bu duo.”

Regardless, I encourage you to give this a try and share in the comments how it turns out!


五香豆腐丝five spice bean tofu skin, one bundle

香菜Cilantro (small bunch)

大葱one leek

香甜醋fragrant and sweet vinegar

生抽 light soy sauce

芝麻油 sesame oil

Remove the base of the tofu skin and cut the long strands into thirds. Place in large bowl. Cut leek into same sized slices, to taste, and combine with tofu skin. Add chopped cilantro to taste. In a separate small bowl, combine the three seasonings in the following ratios, and adjust according to your taste.

One part vinegar

½ part sesame oil

 ½ part light soy sauce

Once the flavor is to your liking, 

toss with the dry ingredients.

I wish my fellow expats and their families:


Also, be wary of exquisite porcelain bottles on the dining table!

About the Author:

Tracy Lesh is an American who moved to China ten years ago.  Along the way, she met and married a Chinese national who spoke zero English. She enjoys sharing her colorful cross-cultural experiences with the expat community.


User comments

There are no user comments for this listing.
Already have an account?
Anti Spam Check
Don't want to answer that question every time?
Register an account
It's FREE and give you access to advanced features
You will be able to upload media right after you submit your comment.


Our WeChat Newsletter
1 Scan the Qrcode
2 Follow Us
3 Stay tuned
Our WeChat Groups
1 Scan the Qrcode
2 Send #groups
3 Join & Enjoy
qr code 1
Our WeChat App
1 Scan the Qrcode
2 Explore the city

Latest articles

Category: Lifestyle
The Tianjin German Concession in history and photography. Tianjin German Concession ...
Closed streets in TEDA for Marathon
Category: What's Up
Drivers in TEDA please remember that streets will be close on Saturday 4th for annual TEDA marathon More info on the marathon click here Closed roads map
Category: Lifestyle
"Hanfu" Refers to the historical dress of the Han people. Learn about the iconic Qipao, Zhongshan, & Tang Suit. Traditional Chinese Clothing Hanfu ...
hao chi longtaitou
Category: Lifestyle
This year, the Longtaitou Festival falls on 7th March, 2019. Let's learn about the origins, traditions, customs, and the legend of the blue dragon! The Longtaitou Festival ...
Category: Lifestyle
Panoramic shots of Tianjin and the surrounding areas with history and commentary Tianjin | A light snow of 2019. The morning sun illuminating the sky. ...
How Do I Find An Ayi (Maid/Household Help)
      How Do I Find An Ayi (Maid/Household Help)   If you live on your own, there are tons of advantages to hiring someone to help you clean and cook. What I've done is hired someone to work two hours a day around lunch hour to help me clean (sweep & squeegee-or-whatever-you-call-that-thing the floor, pick up random clutter, handle laundry, heat a thermos of water, dishes) and to make the day's food for us. ...
How Do I Connect To The Internet?
  How Do I Connect To The Internet?   Depending on which part of Tianjin or the complex/building you live in, Tianjin offers you varieties of internet service providers. Internet Connection installation is usually handled by your landlord. Suggest you talk to your landlord and see what options you have there for your building/area. Chinese people don’t care too much for internet speed so whenever you move in a house/apartment, makes sure to tell your landlord to apply for the fastest connection package available. ...
How Do I Pay For My Electricity?
  How does the electricity generally work?   Most electricity in Tianjin is purchased in advance by the unit, to be consumed only after purchase. However, some people must pay a bill collector who personally comes to their door every month to collect. When you first move into your apartment, your landlord should give you a cardboard card with the apartment’s electricity purchase record and a two-inch long plastic charger piece or the electric purchasing card. After removing the plastic cover, the head of this...
How Do I Rent An Apartment
    Tianjin Housing Guide   When it comes to renting an apartment, best you have some local friends with you as you will be ripped off regardless of what once the landlord/agent knows you are a laowai/foreigner. Here in Tianjin, real agents get their commission directly from the landlord if you are renting the apartment for a year which is usually one-month worth of value of the rent itself. For this, don’t ever give in the agents or the landlords. Commission is...
How Do I Seek Medical Care In Tianjin?
      Hospitals in general:   There are little clinics every few blocks in Tianjin, and if you've got something minor, go there. I'd recommend getting a medical translation dictionary. The doctors are usually competent IF they know what you're talking about, and they'll listen, again, if you know what you're saying to them, but they can be super pushy if they don't. Also, they've got a pretty wide array of basic Western antibiotics and such, but you've got to know the translation....
How Do I Use The Post Office?
      Insight on China Post   In experience, using the postal service is one of the more frustrating experiences one can have in China. A lot of times it seems like their jobs are more to hinder people from using the postal service rather than to provide a service; although some times are much better than others. If you have a complicated task, and your Chinese is not up for it, it might be necessary to find someone to help you. ...
How To Watch Tv Shows and Movies in China
A quick overview of different way for you to watch your preferred movies and TV shows while in China 1 Buy dvd in the Streets Cheap way, be sure to ask the vendor to watch it before buying, to be sure that the subtitles are actually to good one, and that you don't get a movie in Cantonese with Japanese and Korean subtitles only. You won't be able to bring these DVDs back home, EMS won't allow you to send then out of the country, and...
How to Bring My Pet in China
1 Two ways to proceed : DIY , use an agent DIY Go to your local consulate and ask for necessary documents. They are the most up to date source of information. It is not so hard Contact an agent : look on google “bring my pet in China” . This is a very expensive solution but they will take care of everything. Pay a lot just for something you can do by yourself   DIY 2 Vet certificate that proof your pet received...
How to Buy Electronic Stuffs Online for Your Apartment and Pay While They Arrived at Your Place (by using
Are you still looking for electronic stuffs to fill your apartment? However, of course it will take more time to go shop around the outside will the limitation of products to be compared. I have asked some Chinese friends about buying electronic stuffs to fill my living place. Most of them suggest me to do the online shopping in JingDong. Some of the advantages are: 1. The price is quite cheaper rather than doing the offline shopping. ...
How to register on Alipay, to buy on taobao (without chinese id) Updated 30/06/16
  Why you should have an alipay account? Shop on most of Chinese website, including Taobao and Tmall Transfer money to your friends Pay credit card bills Pay phone bills Go Dutch Get a taxi       Add us on Wechat : tianjinexpats or by scanning the QrCode   ...
Exchange your Yuan and send Money out of China(Union Pay, Wire, Western Union, Alipay, Paypal) updated 09/08/2017
Whether it is for your student loans and credit card debt or you're just looking to buy some gift going back home for Christmas, every expat will have a day the need to transfer money abroad. It seems like a hassle but team hope this memo will help you a lot. 28/07/2017 Update: New S.A.F.E. regulations about international UnionPay payment: Starting the 22 of September Chinese banks may report to taxes bureau any transaction over 1000元, (including cash withdrawal abroad and shop payment abroad). If you regularly use your UnionPay card abroad for payment and withdrawal of more than 1000元, you may...
How and why should you get an verified Alipay account (without Chinese ID card) Updated 30/06/2016
How and why should you get a verified Alipay account? 30/06/2016 Update. That article is to get a passport verified account, later alipay may ask you to get a second bank card verified account. You can check our second article for that purpose by Clicking here Alipay and Wechat account after 1st July 2016. What should I know and do? or scan qrcode   Let's start with the why? To override...
Exhibition Jacques Bartz in Le Loft
Category: Lifestyle
关于我 作为波兰裔的法国人 我一年半前到天津 一直对周围的环境充满好奇 随着时间推移 我的洞察力越来越敏锐 所以很自然的 我开始从事摄影 作为完美的现代浪漫主义艺术 摄影对我而言首先是展现世界的视窗 也是我对现实的模糊印象 通过这18张照片 这就是今天我希望向大家展示的 希望大家好好观看、欣赏、感受 « 照片所呈现的是不可见的 它不仅是我们所看见的样子 » Roland BARTHES.  About me, French of Polish origin, I settled in Tianjin a year and a half ago. Since the early days, I have been curious about the surrounding environment. I have become very observant over the years. Therefore, quite naturally, I turned to photography. Modern romantic art par excellence, photography is to me, first of all, a point of view over the world,...
Alipay and Wechat account after 1st July 2016. What should I know and do?
New Chinese regulations have been released and people have been ask to prove their identity on the on-line payment platform : Wechat and AliPay. New regulations are not here against foreigners, they apply to everybody. But verification is more complicated for foreigners, cause of the way banks input our name into the system.   Basically new regulation split user in 3 categories depending on the amount you spend, transfer monthly, or annualy on your account.   Wechat Category 1 : Wechat need bank linking //everybody...

Copyright © 2017.津ICP备18008001号-1 .