How to Ring In an Ox Year

Travel Blog  •  Julia Ross  •  01.26.09 | 9:07 AM ET

Chinese New Year OxPhoto by bfishadow via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Today, millions of Chinese usher in the Year of the Ox by lighting firecrackers, handing out cash-filled red envelopes, feasting on whole fish and texting friends, “Happy Niu Year,” a play on the Mandarin word for “ox,” pronounced “niu.” Me? I’m feeling nostalgic for my old flat in Taipei’s Muzha district, the sound of motor scooters buzzing until midnight, and the raucous atmosphere of Taiwan’s temples, where thousands will pray this week for an auspicious year ahead.

In mainland China, it’s a different story. The holiday period sees the world’s largest annual human migration, making travel a nightmare for those trying to negotiate packed trains and sold-out flights (in fact, most China-based expats leave the country this week). But there are plenty of parties to be had elsewhere, in Chinatowns across the world. So if you’re jonesing for a Chinese culture fix, check out CNN’s round-up of celebrations here.

A word of caution: Beware Hong Kong. In a bizarre attempt to globalize the holiday, this year’s Chinese New Year parade will feature Danish samba dancers, a Russian brass band and ... the Washington Redskins cheerleaders? What the Hong Kong Tourism Board, who dubbed the event, “World’s Happiest Party,” is thinking, I don’t know.

While I’d much prefer to welcome the New Year amid the chanting of Buddhist nuns, I’ll have to settle for a trip to Rockville, Maryland, this week to stock up on my favorite vegetable dumplings. I’ll need them to offset my bleak Chinese horoscope, which predicts eight unfavorable months ahead and warns, “You will have to work hard to steer yourself out of ruts.” Hmm. At least I’m in good company; turns out the Ox year doesn’t look so good for Obama, either.

Julia Ross is a Washington, DC-based writer and frequent contributor to World Hum. She has lived in China and Taiwan, where she was a Fulbright scholar and Mandarin student. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Time, Christian Science Monitor, Plenty and other publications. Her essay, Six Degrees of Vietnam, was shortlisted for "The Best American Travel Writing 2009."

4 Comments for How to Ring In an Ox Year

long island girl 01.26.09 | 11:01 AM ET

Happy Chinese New Year to all!!! I always look forward to this because I loved buying their Chinese figurines representing some lucks just about anything. Luck with love, business, money, life. I am actually starting to collect them all.

Engagement Ring 01.26.09 | 11:54 AM ET

Happy New Years!  May the year of the Ox will be a good one for everyone financially and health wise.

Fabio 02.02.09 | 6:24 AM ET

Please read the aritcle about China travel and tell me your opinion.

Fabio 02.02.09 | 6:28 AM ET

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