It's that time of year again - February - and that means only one thing: no, not St. Valentine's Day, or Mardi Gras, or even Pancake Day; it is, of course, Chinese New Year!
The Chinese certainly like to be different. Not only do they like to speak a different language, use a system of 'drawing' for their written alphabet, eat strange food with wooden pincers, wear outrageous silky outfits, practise martial arts all day, encourage men to have little ponytails hanging from a wart on their chins, and place restrictions on the number of children a family can have, they also like to start their year in February, instead of on 1 January, like normal people do.
This year, it's on 5 February, and it's the Year of the Pig. Oink oink.
Chinese New Year is a bit like Christmas. People give each other gifts that nobody wants, or money, which everybody does. They put the money in red envelopes, which they assume will bring them good luck, but, as many people will know, you make your own luck, so, unless they make their own red envelopes, this ploy will not work.
They observe strange rituals which, they believe, will benefit their dead ancestors. Again, this is hocus-pocus, but it keeps them occupied, and is harmless.
They also like to set things on fire, usually in an old paint tin, in order to fill the air with toxic fumes, which, they believe, are good for their health. Millions of fireworks light up the sky, and the noise is fucking deafening.
Public displays of affection are frowned upon in China, but they love theater, especially Chinese theater, and, at this time of year - the start of it - is when there are lots of staged street plays. These plays attract large audiences, and are absolutely terrible. Most involve ghosts, as ghosts are part of everyday life in China, and even have rights. You will always know when you have stumbled upon a Chinese street play, due to the music, which usually consists of some awkward stringed instrument being twanged haphazardly, accompanied by screeched 'singing' that sounds like someone dying in agony.
Chinese families usually get together at New Year, so that they can have a good argument. They'll argue about anything, but usually money. Once there has been a lull in the dispute, they all sit around a huge table and devour a banquet of tasteless gray or yellow noodles. The sound of a Chinaman eating is rather like a toilet being unblocked - lots of chundering, splashing, and gushing, as well as endless slurping - as he tries to lever mountains of the string-like noodles into his gullet. This, whilst trying to prevent the noodles and the 'soup' (water) they are in, from slipping out of his mouth and back into the bowl. Oink oink.
When the meal is over, Chinese people like to spit. Before they do, however, they like to have a good, long sniff up, to gather any snot that might be lurking in the nostrils to a central collection point, then they loudly croak their throats to move the snot into the back of the throat. They are then ready to spit, and do so, usually on the floor. An alternative is, sometimes, to just swallow it, as if it were some kind of delicacy, which, to the Chinese, it is.
Happy Chinese New Year.