Berlin Chen’s spring festival in Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Berlin Chen’s spring festival in Sri Lanka

21 February, 2021

In 2013, Berlin Chen travelled to Sri Lanka with his girlfriend. She loved the paradise island very much, especially Nuwara Eliya, the tea capital of the central highland.

High above the coastal plains of Sri Lanka, mountain clouds rest over a blanket of tea plantations. Travelling through winding roads and lush green valleys, with tiny streams and waterfalls, Berlin successfully proposed to his girlfriend in the romantic environment. And then they chose to live there.

Berlin said, “We established the first Chinese restaurant in Nuwara Eliya, as well as a guest house, although they are currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.” The girlfriend who was travelling with Berlin is now his wife. Their son is three years old and the daughter is two years.

The 2021 Chinese New Year, the Spring Festival, was a rare holiday for them. The Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is China’s most important festival. It is the time for families to be together and is a week of official public holiday. It is like the Sinhala and Tamil New Year in Sri Lanka.

The Chinese New Year 2021 was on Friday, February 12, beginning a year of the Ox. Berlin Chen’s family usually cannot return to China to visit relatives during the Spring Festival. Sri Lanka is a popular tourist destination. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, China was the second largest source of tourists for Sri Lanka’s inbound tourism. The Spring Festival is the peak season for Chinese tourists. Berlin’s restaurant and guest house are generally very busy during that time. Therefore, in the past few years, they spent every Spring Festival in Sri Lanka, and then travelled to China after the festival.

However, unlike in previous years, the family had no business during the Spring Festival in 2021, due to the bleakness of the tourism industry. So they had planned to go to north Sri Lanka for a holiday.

Regardless of whether the Spring Festival is leisurely or busy, special festival habits are observed every year. The ritual for Berlin Chen’s family is to wear new clothes on New Year Eve, from kids to the elderly. “That’s why my wife prepared brand new clothes for the family quite early before the festival,” he said.

Living in Sri Lanka, his children are still very enthusiastic about the Spring Festival as the children in China. “As the most important festival in our country, it is necessary for children to understand the Spring Festival culture. When my three-year-old son heard us discussing New Year preparations, he shouted, asking for firecrackers for the festival.” Firecrackers and fireworks are part of Chinese New Year customs, just as giving red envelopes and other gifts.

“I hope the Covid-19 will end soon, and we look forward to the recovery of Sri Lanka tourism.” Berlin said.

Speaking of his Chinese New Year wishes, he said: “My first wish is world peace and prosperity for both my motherland and my second hometown Sri Lanka. The second wish is my family’s health and safety. I also wish that people’s efforts will be rewarded.”

Covid-19 has severely affected overseas tourism throughout the world. Sri Lanka is no exception. To welcome tourists on the Chinese New Year 2020, which was the year of the rat, the Berlin couple renovated their restaurant in Nuwara Eliya and prepaid a large amount of rent to the landlord. After the outbreak of Covid-19 they had to close the restaurant on the first day of the Chinese New Year for safety.

“This has deprived our family of all income for half a year. Therefore, in May, when Covid-19 became severe, my family moved from Nuwara Eliya to Colombo and began to run this small family restaurant to tide over the hard time.”

“I look forward to the end of the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of people’s suffering. I hope when tourism recovers, my Chinese restaurant in Nuwara Eliya can resume business,” he said.