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Celebrating Chinese Luna New Year
By Vivian Fung
Chinese New Year is the most important festivity for the Chinese people. It is also called the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year. Every year carries an animal’s name: the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. According to Chinese legend, these twelve animals had a race. The first year was named after the Rat, the winner. The other eleven years carried the names of the animals in the order that they completed the race. How did the Rat win? The clever Rat jumped onto the Ox’s back, then at the end jumped over the Ox’s head to arrive first! This year is the Year of the Ram. It is also called the Year of the Goat. This is because the Chinese character that represents it translates to either sheep or goat.
The Chinese believe that a person born in a particular year has some of the characteristics of that year’s animal. Year of the Ram is associated with calmness and gentleness. On Chinese New Year’s Eve all family members enjoy a big, delicious meal. It is very important for the Chinese to be with their families on this occasion. Fish is always part of the dinner because it represents abundance.
On New Year’s Day all Chinese children wear new clothes with bright colors. Red is considered a lucky color. Parents and relatives give children the traditional New Year’s gift called lucky money. This money is put into bright red and gold envelopes. Red is a traditional color for festivals, celebrations, weddings and birthdays.
The lion dancers are always part of the festivities. The lion has a big head and long body made of cloth. The lion dance is accompanied by drums, cymbals and noisy firecrackers. According to ancient tradition, the noise frightens away evil spirits.
The Dragon is the most important figure of the Chinese New Year festivities and parades. The Dragon is considered a lucky figure. A parade Dragon, which can be 20 to 30 metres in length, is held up by 60 or more people who move under a long cloth that represents the dragon’s tail. During the parade children represent the animals of the Chinese calendar. There are also acrobats and musicians in colourful costumes.
Vivian Fung, Chair of the Sino-Aust Cultural Association Inc., is on the External Advisory Board of the Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies, FSD, Bond University, as well as being part of the Confucius Institute of the University Queensland.