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Chinese New Year 1976

8 February 2008
 

The following is the translation of part of the post appeared on a Chinese online forum by Netizen 知名不具203:

When I was a young boy, I always thought Chinese New Year was all about eating. My parents were both hydraulic engineers and took all their meals in a canteen managed by their work unit. So did we children. During Chinese New Year festival, I loved to pay New Year call to our neighbours with my little brother, mainly for the reason that I could try all the homemade delicacies, from rice cake, oyster pie, frying fish, to red-hot prawns. Even so, we spent most of time during New Year holidays staying at home enjoying each other’s companies. Except one year.

It was Chinese New Year 1976 [the year that rocked the nation and changed the world to a certain degree].

I graduated from high school by the middle of 1975, and like the millions of post high school kids, I was sent to a young graduates farm (知青场) with 30 of my fellow graduates.

The farm was an abandoned orchard. Since we came, we rebuilt the whole thing, and soon there were fruit trees on the hills, fish in pools, cattle in stables and rice in barns. We were led by two cadres who managed our study and daily lives, and taught the farm work by two old peasants.

Half a year passed, Chinese New Year approached. The farm slaughtered a pig, and each person got 1.5 kilos share of pork meat. Apart from that, we were also handed out half a kilo peanut cooking oil [by then cooking oil was a rationed item] and pocketed 60 yuans of cash [about a month's salary for a senior accountant or engineer in those years]. We were all thrilled, looking forward to the holiday season when we could visit our family.

Then one day, leader Old Chen called us to a meeting, and gave a pre-holiday speech: “You guys are ready to go home, that’s good. People say ’with or without money, you’ve got to take New Year’s home-coming journey (有钱没钱回家过年)'. But on the other hand, we need five people to stay behind and look after the farm. Please put your name down if you could do so.

"To those who choose to stay, we’ll offer 25 cents extra daily allowance on top of the standard workpoints.” He took a pull at his cigarette and continued, “The offal of the pig will all be left for them, plus all the food allocated to our farm.”

The youth league secretary signed up, and he was followed by three politically advanced members (先进分子) in our community. Then, to the great surprise of almost everyone, it was me, an underachiever (后进分子), who stood forward.

Why? Because I knew what was included in the allocated food to the farm: 15 kilos of tail fish, 5 kilos of eggs, 1.5 kilos of beef, two jars of rice wine, two cartons of cigarettes with the brand of Great Front Gate [大前门, the most prestigious and popular brand of cigarettes in the 70s], and of course, that pig offal. Had I returned home, there was no way I would ever had a chance to enjoy a feast like this.

My application was granted to my great delight.

Next day, I asked my friend to bring the money and other allocated goods to my parents, and began to indulge myself in eating and drinking and smoking. It was then when I learned cooking, an art of life to which I've never lost my enthusiasm.

(Source in Chinese: xinhuanet.com/forum)

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