Sunday, 22 January 2012

Chinese New Year

Today is Chinese New Year and as I'm sitting here listening to firecrackers going off in the distance of course I must write about it.

The parent volunteers at Conrad's school got together to put on a Chinese New Year display for the multicultural parents and the schoolchildren. The display covered many of the traditions and explained their symbolism in the celebration. Naturally, I went along and learned a great deal.

Food figures highly in the concerns of the day, and each dish has its own symbolic meaning, usually to do with prosperity or family. For example:

Radish cake  = good fortune

Bream   =  surplus every year, prosperity in business

Rice cake  =  steady promotions

Peanuts  =  many descendents

Here are some more:                                                                                                                                                                                                   
I made sure to stay away from these.


     These were especially delicious.          

And a few more:   


Non- edible displays included these willow shoots. When the flower buds open the interior shines like silver, a good omen for prosperity in the new year. The food displays were definitely the most popular, at least until everyone had had a little taste of something.
In the later part of Chinese New Year celebrations, there used to be a custom of writing riddles on lanterns for the public to guess, so one of the activities for the day was guessing the meaning of a riddle.

This little girl ponders a riddle.
Some had dressed up especially for the occasion:

Another activity for the day was to guess the hidden message on the merged character cards. I don't know how well the children did at this. For me, it was intriguing but, alas, completely impossible!

Children could also make a paper cut-out of the character for spring. You can see one in the bottom left hand corner of the picture above. This is hung upside down in some homes, because the word for upside down is similar to the word for arrive. So this shows that spring has arrived! Chinese calligraphy was another activity for the day.

Unfortunately my photos don't do justice to the efforts that the parents and staff went to. The entrance area was also decorated with dragons, characters, red lanterns and general festive glitter.

As I understand it, Chinese New Year isn't celebrated identically by all Chinese people, much the same as in the West different areas and families have different Christmas traditions. But what I did learn is that this time is a time for putting aside old arguments and grudges, sweeping out the old and welcoming the new, and wishing for a prosperous and happy new year, which is my wish to you.

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