Sunday, February 22, 2015

China-towns and Chinese New Year

恭喜發財 (Gōngxǐ fācái)!!!

I know the wish has come four days late (the Chinese New Year aka the Lunar New Year was actually on 19th of February this year). But guess what, it isn’t over yet! The Lunar new year is a fifteen days long celebration and family time, also known as the Spring Festival; hence I am not late, technically :D

This is perhaps the best time of the year to visit China or any country that has Chinese Influence like Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore because this is the time when the beautiful small lanes in these countries are donned in red and spirit of jubilation and this year it is also about the Sheep/Goat/Ram. The Lunar year always has a Chinese zodiac associated with it, and this year it is the year of sheep or goat. Sheep or Yáng according to Chinese zodiac are lovable and remind people of good and beautiful things, hence the year of the Sheep is believed to be year of good fortune. Along with this I learnt about some really interesting things about the Chinese culture and their New Year celebration when I had visited the China Town in Kuala Lumpur and Jonker Street in Melaka, Malaysia.

The Bright Red Lanterns in Chinatown Kuala Lumpur
Red – I had not visited these places during the Chinese New Year (not happy about it!!!), but still these streets were all red – Red Lanterns. Our guide Jeevan told us, red is the colour of fire and symbolizes joy and good fortune and what we saw was not even half the amount of red decorations they have during the spring festival.


Hong Bao
Hong Bao – The Chinese exchange red packets/envelopes, known as Hong Bao, as a symbol of prosperity and good luck, during the Lunar New Year. I remember during my visit to a Perankan Life Museum, the guide there had told us the red packet tradition adopted by the Perankans was actually a Chinese Tradition and these are given on birthdays or exchanged during Lunar New year. Also called as lucky money, these envelopes not only symbolize the passing on of blessings, it is also seen as a way to teach how to save their money. Meaning behind everything right?
Dragons on Roofs and Gates of a Community Center in Chinatown Kuala Lumpur
Notice the small Jade Green Dragon!
Dragons – Dragons hold a great importance in Chinese culture so how could they not have any influence during the spring festival. From what I have come to know Chinese love dragons and consider them auspicious but at the same time they have different types of dragons with different meanings and usage. From dragons on roof warding evil to dragons on doors and dragons near ancestral alters with some other meaning. But during this festival it is all about the dragon dancers! I am sure all of you have seen the dragon dancers, but well this is the time that dance happens and the length of the dragon actually defines luck. Dragons are believed to bring good luck, therefore the longer the dragon in the dance, the more luck it will bring to the people.


An Ancestral Shrine in Melaka
Family Time – This is one time of year where the Chinese make sure they celebrate the start of the year with their families. And when I talk about families it also means their ancestors. Chinese pray to their ancestors and ancestral altars are a very integral part of their community. During the Spring Festival, the Chinese travel back to their homes and also visit their ancestral altars. Incenses, paper and money is burnt as an offering to ancestors symbolizing the importance of family above all and asking for blessings and prosperity.


Family Means a lot more to the Chinese
Fireworks – Did you know firecrackers actually came from China? Fireworks mark the celebrations and are believed to drive the evil away. So no Celebration can be complete without Fireworks!!!
One of the many old Chinese Houses in Jonker, Melaka
Also the Chinese New Year’s date is never fixed. It falls on different days every year, usually between 20th Jan to 20th Feb as it starts on the eve of the turn of the Chinese calendar and is celebrated till the fifteenth day of the 1st month of Chinese calendar. Guess Indian and Islamic festivals aren’t the only ones to have different dates every year. So now you know when to plan your visit to China or other Chinese Places if you want to enjoy the celebrations of the Chinese New Year. For now I have no clue when the next Lunar New Year is but a very happy 2015 to all!!!

5 comments:

  1. Beautiful pictures, Vaisakhi. A good description on the Chinese New Year, may be will plan accordingly if i ever visit China.
    Thank you for bringing this to us.

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    1. Thank you so much and glad you liked it :) And yes do plan during the new year, I have heard China is just beautiful at this time :)

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  2. Lovely images ... Chinese tradition has a charm of itself :-)

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    1. Thanks :) And true, It has a charm of itself!

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