Gah. Been meaning to write about this for quite some time. So, ya'know how Chinese New Year/Spring Festival is usually around January or February? Yeah, well, down here in the south-western most city of the entire country, there are local village traditions that predate a lot of the bigger national celebrations. Case in point, Jude and her village have a tradition that celebrates the New Year in mid-May. It's a village tradition that has survived into modern times, and hey, if someone wants to throw a New Years party in the middle of May, who am I to disagree? It's really strange and wonderful that these old traditions that were begun when Zhanjiang was little more than rice paddies and a harbor still survive today, albeit with Nike hats and KFC incense buckets.
You see those young guys carrying those long metal poles? Yeah, well, if you look closely, you'll see they are piercing their cheek with the needle-like end that's in their mouths. Why? Why do we cut down a tree, drag it inside and cover it with lights during Christmas? Exactly. Jude told me it's a sign of godliness, to be able to endure it. The boys fast for about three days while that thing is in their mouth. And they're heavy! With one end sticking outta your maw, it's gotta be damn near impossible to do much.
Each "segment" of young god-men was followed by dragon dances, impromptu eardrum-piercing fireworks, tribal rhythmic music, and a lot of other really unique cultural artifacts. We just don't have this stuff in America: we don't have regional traditions and inexplicable customs that have roots hundreds of years old. An American holiday with roots in any kind of history usually involves a gift of aged scotch.
Some more random pics there. That girl is really cute. And nothing beats the ancient Chinese custom of KFC incense buckets. The Colonel would be proud. The fruit and tea are meant to welcome guests from all over. After the parades, everyone literally opens their doors and the whole neighborhood more or less turns into a buffet. You're greeted with open arms and mountains of amazing food wherever you go, and the more people that come to partake in your hours-long banquet, the luckier your New Year will be. Jude's father welcomed us, and we had so much food we were literally stacking plates full of food atop other plates full of food. Seriously, we had at one time probably two or three whole ducks on our table, and that was just one of three tables in the room. We were invited back for dinner, but lunch was enough to make you hibernate.
Anyway, it was a great meal and a great celebration, one of those totally unique moments where you're enmeshed in the culture so thoroughly that you forget all those blinders you use to box in your reality and everything is stripped away, leaving only raw, jubilant experience.
More pics can be found in this album.