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Celebrating Chinese New Year 2012

Celebrating Chinese New Year

“Foo” or good luck”

The ‘Fu’ or ‘Good Luck!’ The symbol is always prominently displayed during the Chinese New Year period. Funnily enough, ‘Fu’ has two different meanings depending on how you look at it, both together mean ‘Happy New Year!’

A different character from Kung Phew shows a woman by the oven or stove cooking something special! It is often shown upside down as it then looks like the Chinese character ‘dao’ which means ‘arriving’ in the sense of ‘good luck arriving’.

Food for thought

Food, as the symbol above suggests, is an important part of Chinese New Year. This is clearly reflected in many of the Festival’s customs and traditions. The dumplings symbolize luck (they look like small bars of gold and silver that were once used as currency) and are eaten with particular gusto. Fish dishes are also popular as “fish” and “plenty/abundance” sound very similar in Chinese. Delicious sticky rice cakes are also regularly on the New Year’s agenda.

Spare ribs, Singapore noodles and special rice are enough to get you started if you’ve never tried Chinese cuisine before.

Fireworks and color

Red, the most active color, is the color of Heavenly Energy (T’ien Qi) that activates and energizes our body. Red plays a central role in this festival that celebrates the activation of the New Year and is seen everywhere during the New Year celebrations. Gold, symbolizing good fortune, is also a prominent color found everywhere at the moment, often in groups of four golden Chinese characters on glossy red paper, conveying appropriate seasonal sentiments.

Fireworks, including firecrackers are another key feature of Chinese New Year celebrations. The invention of fireworks long ago in China is said to have been caused by bamboo, which explodes with a loud report when burned due to the rapid expansion of the air inside. Martial arts displays, dance performances and parades are also important aspects of the festival celebrations. Hopefully, knowing these in advance will encourage more people to enjoy the events to the fullest.

Moonlights: How the date is determined

Yuan Tan, the Chinese New Year Festival, begins when the second New Moon of the year appears (the first being the 13th and final lunar month of the 28-day departing year) as the celebrations mark the start of a new Lunar Cycle. Lunar Months are actually 29.5 days, so the Chinese insert an extra month periodically (7 every 19 years), so this predictably moving holiday has different start and end dates each year.

Celebrating Chinese New Year

Celebrations begin at the first appearance of the Crescent Moon (or whenever, as it is a global festival, as long as it is New Year’s). These include fireworks, martial arts shows and of course lion and dragon dances, particularly in the West in the “Chinatowns” of major cities. In Sheffield UK (my home) crowds watch the Sheffield Chinese Lion Dance Team (of which I am a member). In London’s Chinatown, My Honored Master, Grandmaster Yap Leong’s Shaolin Fists Lion Dance Group is always at the forefront of the celebrations.

Chinese New Year is celebrated in places with large Chinese populations and special historical or cultural ties to China, such as: Bhutan, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Nepal, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and other places containing significant Chinese populations . Moreover, as I heard a distinguished Chinese official remark during last year’s celebrations “it is something that China shares with the world. It’s going to be a festive celebration!”.

So join the crowds, wherever you are, if you can, when the Year of the Dragon finally arrives on 23rd January 2012. London’s celebrations peak on Saturday and Sunday 28-29 January. There’s a colorful street parade along The Strand, Charing Cross, Shaftesbury Avenue and through Chinatown and free, first-class performances on Trafalgar Square’s huge outdoor stage, featuring Kung Fu, ethnic dances, music and visiting Chinese artists. Fireworks, craft stalls and street entertainment in Chinatown, accompanied of course by Lion Dancing, continues into the evening. Many groups of visitors “round off” their visit with a Chinese meal at one of the many local restaurant areas. See you there!

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