Goodbye and Hello

Spring Festival is a time of family reunions, delicious food, celebrations and a break from work. People in Jing'an rang in the Year of the Pig in a variety of ways.

Editor's note: Jing’an sits at the heart of Shanghai. It represents the essence of the history and culture of the city, home to century-old buildings, big-name attractions, glitzy retail malls and charming art galleries. Annual music and art events give the district a distinctive ambience. In this series, we showcase the highlights of Jing’an. 

February Keywords:Goodbye and Hello

Ti Gong

An expat joins in Spring Festival celebrations in the historical Zhangyuan neighborhood, ahead of a major redevelopment program in the area. 

For Chinese people, Spring Festival is a time of family reunions, delicious food, celebrations and a break from work.

The traditional holiday period stretches from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the end of the Lantern Festival — from February 4-19 this year.

People living in Jing’an rang in the Year of the Pig in a variety of ways.

For Zhangyuan residents, it was the last chance to celebrate with neighbors in the historical alleyway. After the Lantern Festival, they started to move to relocation homes to make room for a commercial makeover.

Zhangyuan, a well-preserved shikumen, has about 170 old buildings that have housed about 1,200 families. Some of the historical buildings will be retained in the redevelopment.

In the Zhangyuan Dakeyang building, neighbors pasted chuanghua, or paper-cuts in auspicious patterns, on windows and hung red lanterns on the gate.

Together, they made spring roll wraps, cured meats and prepared other must-haves for a Shanghai-style holiday feast. They all dined together.

Zhuang Liu’e, who has lived in Zhangyuan for nearly 70 years, hasn’t spent the Spring Festival with his old neighbors for years because his daughter usually takes him to her home in the Minhang District for the New Year’s Eve feast. This year, he decided to stay home.

“For us, it’s the last reunion in Zhangyuan,” he said. “It reminded me of the old days when those of us in the same building shared a big kitchen with 13 stoves. Every afternoon, the kitchen was filled with smoke.”

He choked up when reliving fond memories.

“Neighbors shared food, and we played in the alleyway,” he said. “It was the best time of times.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A Year of the Pig lantern brightens festivities during the Lantern Festival.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Popular eateries Meixin and Wangjiasha, famed for stuffed glutinous rice balls, were crowded over the holiday.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Xue Qiyong from Meixin makes tangyuan.

The Jing’an Cultural Center held a traditional Spring Festival party, with paper lanterns, old-favorite snacks like sugar-coated hawthorn berries and riddle guessing.

“I know it’s the Year of the Pig, and I love Peppa Pig,” said a 7-year-old boy named Lele, referring to the popular children’s cartoon figure.

Adults waited in long queues outside 94-year-old Meixin Dim Sum, an eatery famed for its traditional snacks like tangyuan, glutinous rice balls with sweet sesame or salty pork stuffing. Tangyuan is an essential food for the Lantern Festival.

“Recently, we sold more than 30,000 tangyuan per day,” said Xue Qiyong, 64, the master chef who has been working at the eatery since 1973. “I remember back years ago when people came to the shop around midnight and waited until we opened at 5am to buy tangyuan. Every Spring Festival, I still work overtime.”

His dedication has paid off.

“Many renowned figures and foreign guests have come to our shop,” he said. “And many visitors buy several kilograms of frozen tangyuan to take home and give as gifts to friends.”

Another time-honored eatery is Wangjiasha, which was also crowded with customers during the holiday. Among the popular-selling foods were tangyuan stuffed with crab meat and roe.

“I came early, but I still waited for nearly an hour,” said a customer surnamed Qu, who bought two boxes of tangyuan. “For our family, Wangjiasha tangyuan is a must-have to end the Spring Festival.”


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