Travel Report: Chinese New Year Customs in Dandong

For Chinese New Year 2014, I travelled to Dandong, border city between China and North Korea, situated at the Yalu river and home to a railroad crossing between both cities, that got famously bombed by the United States of America during the Korea War. Dandong being a perfect example for a North-Eastern third or fourth tier city, I present to you a number of Chinese New Year customs displayed in photographs:

Gifts & Snacks

Buying alcohol in Dandong

During Chinese New Year it is custom to bring along gifts when visiting relatives. It is also custom to keep sufficient snacks, fruits and drinks at home in case of (obvious) visits by family members. Hence all shops have stocked up and offer their goods on the road side, displaying boxes full of Tsingtao beer, Yalu River beer,various kinds of fruit juices, milk-mix beverages and dried (or non-dried) fruits.

Selling famous Dandong strawberries

Dandong is famous for strawberries which are big in size and great in taste. Here is one of many street-side stands selling fruits, amongst which are the strawberries.

Selling nuts for Chinese New Year

Having a bowl of nuts or several kinds of nuts at home is part of the Chinese culture for CNY. Offering snacks to numerous relatives and family members that visit your home is giving face to the host. Peanuts as shown here or any other kind of small snack are supposed to be on everyones table.

Firecrackers

Fire crackers being sold on the street

From multi-rocket boxes to small volcanes to multi-layered rolls of small fire crackers. During Chinese New Year one can buy any kind of explosive easily on the street for a night of fire works.

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Fireworks are being lit all over the city, in between apartment buildings and across the street. Little care is to be taken about one’s personal safety and the safety of others and every year there are firework related accidents, fires and unfortunately fatal accidents.


Crackers

Dandong’s most used fire crackers are the long rolls of simple small dynamite like fire crackers. In this photo one can see the aftermath of a short roll of these bombshell crackers.

Family come togethers

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Chinese New Year is a family festival and as such all offspring of parents are supposed to return home for a huge meal involving numerous dishes, based upon the traditional cuisine of the area. In Dandong’s case this involves seafood, various types of meat, bean-mixed rice and cold vegetables.

BBQ Dandong Style

Together with friends we enjoyed Dandong-style barbeque at a local restaurant. The coals have been heated outside and are inserted into the table with a small grill on top of them. Meat, mushrooms, vegetables and seafood are grilled by each one individually or jointly as a group adventure. Obviously beer or other alcoholics are part of friend re-unions which happen during Chinese New Year especially amongst the younger Chinese crowd which lives far away from their hometown.

The decorations

Similar to Western Christmas, decorations are an integral part of the Chinese New Year celebrations and involve four major parts displayed around the main entrance door of an apartment, shop or other important facility:

  1. The square-shaped sign in the middle of the door, usually a upside down 福 symbolizing happiness
  2. Lucky sayings displayed in rectangular shapes on the left and on the right of the door
  3. A top piece, usually a shorter lucky saying sometimes along with some short curtain-like pieces

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Please feel free to see more photos of Dandong.

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