I generally suck at participation. This might be because my family was so incredibly lazy. It was always masked in a kind of iconoclastic rebellion, but it was likely the case that my family’s refusal to do anything for the American holidays was mostly just borne out of laziness. This laziness has now infected me rather deeply. I don’t really want to do much, and I often don’t. My comfort zone has a hammock and a mini fridge. I’m not going very far from it. This means that in my life I missed many ‘fun’ occasions. It bothers me very little, as those times where I did participate the promised fun failed to materialize.
Here in China Spring Festival was promising to be much of the same. Spring Festival is a holiday in early February that marks the traditional end of winter, despite their being at least two more cold months to come. In the west it is called Chinese New Year. Anyway, everyone is given a week off for the holiday (although for us it was coming out of our annual leave). Everyone I knew was talking about going away for the holiday and using the time to travel about the country. I tossed the idea around, but ultimately my laziness got the better of me and I decided to stay put. I would think of it as a staycation, where I could relax at home and really just do what I want to do.
This was a glorious decision. Almost everyone left the city to go to the countryside, and a city of eight million went down to about 3 million. I woke up the first morning of Spring Festival with nothing whatsoever to do, and stayed in bed a few extra hours just to read. I finally emerged much later than I had expected to, and when I went outside I thought I slept through the rapture. I had never experienced such silence in China. NO ONE WAS AROUND. The major intersection near my house , which normally is congested at all hours of the night or day (due to the construction of a Hangzhou metro station beneath) was deserted.
This just may be a trick of memory, but I am convinced that Spring Festival was the first time I saw the sky over Hangzhou. Every day prior had been heavily polluted, but without the electricity needs of eight million citizens the factories had shut down for the festival. The air was wonderfully breathable.
The people who had been talking me out of staying in town for Spring festival had warned me that nothing would be open, but in actual fact the bars, restaurants and supermarkets around my house remained open for most of the week (though admittedly not all of it). Me and the friend who stuck around with me found ourselves at the same bar almost every night, and considering how few the patrons were, we were treated like heroes when we showed up.
Admittedly, there was likely a cost lost in my staying at home. There are supposed to be parades and festivities of all kinds during the festival. But frankly, I am not sure I care. China can keep their holiday, I am dedicated to doing the staycation next year as well.