When I was a young boy growing up in Louisville, Ky., it was always a treat when my parents took me to the House of Chen, one of the few local Chinese restaurants in my hometown at that time.
The restaurant was owned and operated by Mr. Chen himself, who presided over every table with serious attention. And his menu, which favored Cantonese dishes, was much more authentic than what is typically found in most Chinese-American restaurants today. I don’t think Mr. Chen even gave you a fortune cookie after the meal.
But beyond the culinary pleasures it offered, the House of Chen was a fascinating place for me. It was truly a beautiful restaurant, decorated tastefully with embroidered silk art work and delicately carved wood statues. When you walked through the door, you were instantly transported to a distant and exotic land and my visits there – so many years ago – whetted my appetite for not only Chinese food, but also a lifelong interest in Chinese history and culture.
On February 3, 2011, one of the most significant cultural events in China and much of Asia will begin – Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival. Chinese New Year is celebrated not only in China, but in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.
Chinese New Year, which is actually celebrated over several days, is preceded by “Chunyun,” which refers to the travel season when Chinese people board buses, trains, airplanes or any other means of conveyance to get back to their ancestral homes for the traditional New Year’s Eve reunion dinner.
At UPS, we pride ourselves on our ability to handle even the most complex logistical challenge, but Chunyun is in a category by itself. It’s estimated that in 2008, 2.26 billion people traveled home for the holiday in China, making it the largest annual human migration on the planet.
It is a long-held tradition for most Chinese people to reunite with their families during this important festival, but recent years have been especially problematic as more Chinese have moved from their hometowns in Central and Western China to work or study in cities like Guangzhou and Beijing in Eastern China. This has caused China’s transportation infrastructure to become overwhelmed during the Chunyun period. The rail system is especially strained, as most Chinese middle-class citizens prefer to travel by train.
Regardless of our cultural backgrounds, most of us want to be with our families during important holidays, so I wish safe and happy travels to everyone who is going home to China to ring in the New Year with their loved ones. As for me, I’ll gather my own family to seek out a sumptuous Chinese feast here in Atlanta. And during our dinner, I’ll be thinking about Mr. Chen and the amazing world he opened up for me.
|Tags:||Asia, China, Chinese New Year, holiday, Spring Fesitval|