Experiencing Chinese Culture: Chinese New Year and CCE!

Kung Hei Fat Choi! Happy Chinese New Year!

I have quite a lot of blog posts to catch up on! As the past blog posts have been fairly short, the next ones will be a little longer and I will give you a little more background information about everything! For me these past two weeks could be summarized with only a few simple words: sharing Chinese culture. With the Chinese Cultural Evening (CCE) and Chinese New Year just a week later,I could not have had a better opportunity of immersing more in the wonderful culture of the city we live in.

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CCE was unforgettable and campus was full of students wearing elegant “qipaos” and “changsams”, traditional Chinese dresses (close-fitting with a high neck and slits on the sides). The canteen was beautifully decorated and we had traditional Chinese dinners served by our lovely co- and secondyears.

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All members of CCE had practiced very hard (I remember the countless times I saw our lion and dragon dancers practicing in the gym and the courtyard and the evenings in which all CCE students rushed to rehearsals after check-in) and all CCE rehearsal were not only quite long, but also quite often. But all the hard work surely paid off!! The lion and dragon dance performances of both Y1 students and Y2 students were absolutely amazing and the Mulan themed show told the story behind the Chinese New Year celebrations in a sweet and funny way, it was great. Thank you so much CCE for that unforgettable evening! (Videos will be uploaded very soon)

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Speaking about Chinese New Year: The centuries-old legend tells the story of a terrible mythical monster who preyed on villagers. The lion-like monster’s name was Nian (年) which is also the Chinese word for “year.” A wise old man who counsels the villagers to ward off the evil Nian by making loud noises with drums and firecrackers and hanging red paper cutouts and scrolls on their doors because for some reason, the Nian is scared of the color red. The villagers took the old man’s advice and the Nian was conquered. On the anniversary of the date, the Chinese recognize the “passing of the Nian” known in Chinese as guo nian (过年), which is also synonymous with celebrating the new year.

Chinese New Year (which started this weekend), it is without a doubt the biggest (and most-adored) festival of the lunar calendar, packed with age-old traditions, cultural festivities and family celebrations! Starting on the first day of the New Year, (31 January) and right up until the Spring Lantern Festival (14 February), it is the time of the year where locals flock to aromatic temples to pray for good fortune, prepare delicious food and red lanterns glow at night, and red paper cutouts and calligraphy hangings are hung on doors. And China is not the only country or culture to recognize the lunar calendar! Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, the Philippines, Korea, Japan and Vietnam are also celebrating the Chinese New Year. While the official calendar of these countries has been changed to the Gregorian calendar, each country and all of its citizens still celebrate in conjunction with the lunar calendar.

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Despite its utterly modern world city status, to me Hong Kong was deeply traditional during these past days. In true Hong Kong style, the city welcomed the Year of the Horse with festive flamboyancy, timeless traditions and that unique touch of cosmopolitan flair! The year of the horse? Yes.

 

The date of Chinese New Year changes each year as it is based on the lunar calendar. While the western Gregorian calendar is based on the earth’s orbit around the sun, China and most Asian countries use the lunar calendar that is based on the moon’s orbit around the earth. The Chinese Lunar New Year runs in cycles of 12, with each year in the cycle representing a different animal. The horse is the seventh animal in the rotation and marks the 4,712th year of the Chinese calendar. In its entirety, and in order, the rotating cycle of animals goes rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Each animal corresponds to a zodiac sign. The Chinese Lunar New Year is not 365 days and does not necessarily follow the 12-month system. A year in the lunar calendar is either 12 months (with 353, 354 or 355 days) or the year is 13 months (with 383, 384 or 385 days). This Chinese New Year runs from January 31, 2014 to February 18, 2015, which is slightly over the traditional 12 months that have 30 days each. On February 15, the Festival of Lanterns signifies the end of celebration (it will be beautiful!) and the start of the Year of the Horse.

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On Chinese New Year, families travel long distances to meet. Known as the “Spring movement” or Chunyun (春运), a great migration takes place in China during this period where many travelers brave the crowds to get to their hometowns. I have never seen so many people in Hong Kong – the streets and MTR stations were filled to their brim! According to he Soutch China Morning Post, 3.6 billion passenger trips will be made across all modes of transportation, making the Lunar New Year the largest annual migration on Earth in 2014. You can look at a heat map showing the movement here.

Due to the Chinese New Year Celebrations we do not have school for one week. Campus is calm, almost all local students went home and many secondyears went to different countries in South East Asia to enjoy their study break. The weather is marvelous: 22°C and sunshine. I can’t believe it’s only February and spent my afternoon today on the roof of Block 3, enjoying the warm weather.

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Photocredit: Ehab Ebeid

My Chinese New Year has been unforgettable so – I spent Friday night in Tsim Sha Tsui with friends to watch the New Year parades and traditional dragon and lion dance performances, on Saturday evening I were invited for a sleepover at Miranda’s house (HK/Singapore/US), we watched the New Year’s fireworks with and my Sunday went by in the beautiful fishing village of Cheung Chau, delicious Indian dinner at Keith’s house (India/HK) and a walk by the harbor front. As it happens on New Year and big celebrations, there was plenty of delicious food (food is an important component to the Chinese New Year, traditional foods include “nian gao” or sweet sticky rice cake and savory dumplings) and I have a quite happy tummy after these past three days, so to speak. You can read more about everything I did during Chinese New Year in the next blog post!

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