Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: holiday

My stories 02: Chinese New Year

It is no surprise that the Lunar New Year is the most important event of the year for the Chinese, and growing up in a Chinese family, we observe it every year. We didn’t go all out with the rituals and celebrations, which themselves vary among regions across China. For us, it’s usually just a simple meal with the immediate family. The last time I spent Chinese New Year at home was in 2014, and my dad cooked a huge New Year’s Eve meal. I remember, though, that my mom unfortunately had to work that evening and was absent, so it was a dinner for three – my dad, my sister, and me. This year, however, I was finally able to spend New Year’s Eve with the entire family, after five years.

During the Chinese New Year celebrations, elders are obliged by cultural norms to give youngsters red pockets containing lucky money, or “lai-see” in Cantonese. When I was a kid, I would receive lai-see from many relatives and friends of my parents. What did I do with the money? Well, I’d be lucky if I knew how much money was in the lai-see. Why is that? Well, my mom (and many Chinese moms do the same) would claim that I was too young to spend money anyway, so she would “save up the money” for my future. After that, I would never find out the whereabouts of the lai-see. Another thing is that only married people are expected to give out lai-see – I think this is a Cantonese norm, but I’m not 100% sure. So, even though I’m in my 30s, I still receive lai-see from my relatives and am not condemned if I don’t “return the favour” by similarly handing out lai-see to their kids. I guess that’s another reason not to get married yet…

And then there are firecrackers. Perhaps it’s an irrational fear, but I’m deathly afraid of sudden, loud noises – popping balloons, thunder, and firecrackers. I can’t recall what prompted this fear in me, but I do remember shivering and hiding in the house when the firecrackers were lit in my childhood days. Nowadays, firecrackers are prohibited in many cities in China, but are still a widespread form of celebration in the countryside. It does seem like traditional Chinese heritage is being compromised by the diminishing popularity of firecrackers, but at least it effectively alleviated my pain and suffering from the deafening noises that remain in my memories.

Red pockets containing lucky money, given out during Chinese New Year.

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Northwestern France, days 3 and 4

On day 3 of my Christmas escape from Bordeaux, I visited the famous Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy…or is it part of Brittany? I’m not sure. The bus ride was a little less than an hour and a half from Rennes, perfect for a day trip. I figured since I was in Rennes, why not drop by to see what’s the big deal?

Day 4 was an unplanned but interesting detour…you’ll see. (See all photos.)

Obligatory front shot of Mont Saint-Michel upon arrival. Mont Saint-Michel is a tidal island that is connected to the mainland via a causeway. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the entire “town” of Mont Saint-Michel is enclosed by a fortress, with a gigantic abbey at the very top in the centre.

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Northwestern France, days 1 and 2

Finally, I am writing about my trip to Brittany and Pays de la Loire during the Christmas holidays. It was almost a last-minute plan. I wanted to go somewhere far for Christmas (Prague or somewhere in Italy), but could not find anyone to go with. By the time someone DID want to go with me, prices for everything had been completely jacked up. Boo.

So, I decided to go solo. I wanted to just go SOMEWHERE outside of Bordeaux. It didn’t even have to be anywhere far anymore; I just needed to be alone for a few days. Well, I suppose Nantes and Rennes were far away enough. Nantes is a 4-hour train ride north of Bordeaux and Rennes is a further hour north of Nantes.

Not many people knew where I went during the four days after the Christmas meal. It felt a bit like a secret escape, actually, and I liked it. (See all photos.)

Day 1: Nantes, Pays de la Loire

Nantes, the capital city of the Pays de la Loire region in the north west of France, was historically a part of the region of Brittany (Bretagne in French). In fact, it was the capital of Brittany before it officially separated from the region, and that’s why the city still retains much of its culture from its Breton roots.

The Château des ducs de Bretagne is a prominent structure situated right in the city centre of Nantes, close to the train station. Back when Nantes was part of Brittany, the castle served as the residence of the dukes of Brittany. Today, visitors are allowed to take a walk around the various parts of the castle and its courtyards that are surrounded by old walls and ramparts.

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It’s Christmas time!

Christmas is the time of giving and gathering, a time of being joyful and thankful, a time of celebrating the reason why we should be joyful and thankful. 2012 years ago, the one and only God came to this world as a man, a humble king who would die for the atonement of our sins. Because He came, we are free, and today, we gather to sing His praises and celebrate His wonders.

Throughout the years, Christmas has become such a commercialized holiday that many people have forgotten its true meaning. The other day my sister asked me what presents I got, and while I said none, she replied in surprised, “How could you not get presents? It’s CHRISTMAS?” A bit ironic, isn’t it? Because it is Christmas, I should be getting presents? Is Christmas all about putting presents under the tree, waiting for Santa Claus, and singing carols? Among the dazzling lights and cheering crowds, who remembers the real Christmas story?

Regardless of the way we perceive Christmas, it is a time where joy is present in the air. Bordeaux, of course, lacks no Christmas spirit. Although it is rain instead of snow that covers the city, Bordeaux dances in its own beauty even in the rain. Although our Christmas market isn’t as grand as the ones in Paris or Strasbourg or Cologne, the crowds are not to be belittled. Although I am far from my home in Canada, I found a family here with whom I could share the peace and joy that was blessed upon me 😉

So you wonder if Santa Claus really exists. Did you know that Santa Claus is really…a thief? Yep, that’s right. Santa Claus was caught in action in Saint-Émilion! There was a big “attention au chien” (“beware of dog”) sign in front of this house, but I guess the dog somehow missed the stealthy Mr.Claus…

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