Chinese New Year in Caribbean and African Nations – Gung Hay Fat Choy!

[dropcap style=”inverted”]C[/dropcap]hinese New Year (Gung Hay Fat Choy), also known as the Spring Festival, is the most important traditional festival and a public holiday in China. The Chinese New Year 2013(Year of the Snake) starts on February 9 2013 (Chinese New Year’ Eve).

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What Is The Chinese New Year?
The Chinese calendar is strictly based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. Each lunar cycle lasts for approximately 29.5 days. The implication is that this lunar length must catch up with the solar calendar. To do this, the Chinese have inserted an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-year cycle). This is akin to adding an extra day for each leap year. As such, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year (a date between January 21 and February 20).

Every year however, the Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon. The celebrations then end on the full moon 15 days later. The celebrations culminate with the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.

The Year of the Snake
Each Chinese New Year is accompanied by a number of distinguishing features. This includes heavenly stems, various elements as well as the year’s prescribing animal zodiac. Like the zodiac signs of the western world, Chinese zodiac are represented by different animals, each with its own meaning and implications for the character and experiences for people born within a specific time period(in this case, a specific year). It is a common misconception that there are only the singular animals assigned by year. In fact, zodiac signs are reused based on descriptions drawn solely on the astrological system.

The snake is being presented as an animal astute in its observations and deft in actions. The Snake symbol of 2013 represents an active, very seductive nature. The Year of the Snake also has implications for people born in 2013. Such individual poses the ability to read complicated situations quickly and in a controlled manner. These individuals then are said to make good economic and technical decisions and are thus good at technology and science.

The 2013 Snake, however, needs to watch for fanatical and personal economic commitments since Snakes’ are inclined to spend money quicker than earn it, which may lead to tensions in personal relationships.

The Traditions 
Every year, the festival is celebrated grandly and extensively across China; and is undoubtedly the largest celebration in the country. The Chinese engage in various cultural activities such as fireworks lighting, dragon dancing, lion dancing and other traditional performances.

The performances are arranged in various public places such as parks, streets, arenas and stadiums. On a more personal level, every family thoroughly cleans the house, sweeps the floors and washes daily things, welcoming the New Year. As you might imagine, house cleaning is believed to drive away ill-fortune and bring good luck in the coming year. Homes are also decorated with bright colours and paraphernalia.

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How is it celebrated in the Caribbean & African?
The Chinese New Year serves to add even more vibrancy to the already upbeat nature of the Caribbean. The Chinese New Year is not celebrated extensively in the Caribbean as say, Christmas or other popular festivals. However, in countries such as Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba(Havana’s Chinatown), the festival is quite evident. Traditional parades, lion dances and martial arts performances are the major activities celebrated as part of the Chinese New Year.

The Chinese New Year is not celebrated extensively in Africa either, except in South Africa which boasts the largest Chinese population in Africa. Festivals are held in Cape Town and Johannesburg’s Chinatowns. There are fantastic firework displays, and other traditional activities.

Chinese New Year - with images_page4_image3Non-Chinese Involvement
The beauty of the Chinese New Year is that it’s an extremely plural festival, combining traditional pastimes with activities that span cultural uniqueness and includes almost everyone. Parties, fireworks and parades are activities that everyone enjoy and are willing to participate in. This is as true in South Africa as it is true in the Caribbean, as you would imagine.

In any case, who can resist the colourful, extravagant displays and incredibly energetic atmosphere of Chinese celebrations? What is the zodiac symbol of the year in which you were born? What does it mean for your character and your life in general?

By: Norvan Martin

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