PUBLISHED ON THE SOUTH SYDNEY HERALD:
Sydney Chinese New Year Festival includes many events over two weeks. Even though Chinese people in Sydney can watch Chinese art performances from the festival launch and watch lion dances in the city, they will still miss the Chinese New Year in China. Chinese food in Sydney’s Chinatown is so different from local Chinese food in China. Nothing here is equal to having a New Year reunion dinner with family in China.
This evening is a very special time for every Chinese person. We fly back to our hometown no matter how far away we are. We make dumplings and prepare the reunion dinner no matter how long it takes. We watch the Spring Event Gala Evening and enjoy fireworks until midnight.
This Chinese New Year is the Year of the Horse. In China there will be many celebrations and performances, though the traditions vary from region to region. There are over 20 provinces and 55 minorities, each with its own way of celebrating Chinese New Year.
For instance, people from Yunnan Province write their wishes on all kinds of New Year lanterns and place them in the river. Every family from Wuzhen Town takes part in a “long street banquet” – taking its table out and placing home-cooked dishes on it to share with others. In Beijing, if you go into the streets, you can see many folk artists perform, such as paper-cut art, shadow plays or blown sugar art. When I was young, I was captivated by the Chinese sugar art and clay art: the artists can drip sugars from a big spoon to paint different animals and pinch clays to make colorful animation characters.
What Chinese people love the most is the Chinese food on the streets. Many local snacks and traditional Chinese dishes make you gluttonous! These traditional snacks such as Tanghulu taste really different from the Chinese food in the Sydney New Year Market.
Even though traditions vary provincially, a family reunion dinner is important to every Chinese person. After making dumplings and having a big feast, the family sits together and watches the live Spring Event Gala Evening on television until midnight. Besides some traditional Chinese performances, such as Beijing Opera or martial arts, this year artists from all over the world have been invited, such as the Hungarian shadow theatre group, Attraction, French actress Sophie Marceau and Korean actor Lee Min-ho. Also, some dramas created on the basis of some Chinese social issues will be performed, as well as practical guidelines with regard to helping an elder who falls in the street.
While waiting for midnight, the elders play Mahjong while the young people enjoy candies or snacks. Greeting friends through WeChat, emails or messages is another tradition during this time.
Compared to the cities, celebration in the countryside is more traditional where families encircle the stove for long conversations. I have visited my grandparents who lived in the countryside and it felt warm spending all night talking to them.
The most memorable time would be firecrackers or firework displays with my younger cousins. A variety of fireworks are on offer: a rocket-shaped one should be stuck into the ground and a stick-shaped one needs to be handheld. Small butterfly or dragonfly fireworks can rotate and short firecrackers are deafening when you throw them to the ground. Boys are always more brave than girls as they dare to try all kinds of firecrackers. It is exciting to light the firecrackers and fireworks.
“Happy Horse Year!” “Happy Spring Festival!” When midnight comes, the sound of New Year wishes arises. The fireworks from all over the city deafen you. Then in the following days, Chinese people will be busy visiting with friends and families. It is such a good time to keep contact and cherish relationships.