|Home | Issues | The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 6 , Tuesday February 13, 2007|
Chinese New Year: A time to rejoice
The estimated 2,500 Chinese in Bangladesh are revving up for their major festival: the 15-day Chinese New Year (beginning from February 18), also known as the Spring Festival. Though over the years celebrations have become more low keyed since many of them wing their way to China, the New Year spirit is catching on here with upcoming cultural programmes, calligraphies full of joy and messages of blessings, peace and happiness (albeit on a smaller scale than China), family get togethers and a delectable array of foods such as jiao zi (dumplings), colour and gaiety.
The Chinese Embassy in Dhaka is the hub of much of the activity. On the cards is a celebration of New Year's Eve (February 17) by the 30 officials at the embassy along with their families. The embassy is also to sponsor cultural programmes showcasing students of the Chinese language at Dhaka University (140 learners) and North South University (60).
Many Chinese had plans to go home to celebrate the occasion, but as Wang Danhong, cultural attaché to the Chinese Embassy pointed out, “We only get seven days off which is too short a time to go and return.” Others such as Fan Guifin, second secretary, are happy to catch up with their families who have come here to celebrate the festival.
Meanwhile for others, the occasion is celebrated with small family get-togethers or dinners at Chinese restaurants such as Golden Rice and Bamboo Shoot. Some Chinese regard New Year as any other day. Says one restaurant owner who prefers to remain anonymous, “ It is no big deal for me as my family is not around in Bangladesh. Moreover since the Chinese community is not very large here, the New Year spirit has been dampened a bit.” This is a time when the absence of family rankles and many confess to missing their homeland acutely.
Traditionally the festival is regarded as a family affair, a time to catch up with family and friends and offer thanksgiving. The celebration features a traditional ceremony given in honour of heaven and earth, the gods of the household and ancestors. The sacrifice to the ancestors, a vital ritual, unites the living members with those who passed away. On New Year's Eve, the presence of ancestors is acknowledged with a family dinner.
According to the Chinese calendar, 2007 is the Year of the Pig. As some community members point out, each year is designated by one of 12 animals. For instance, 2005 was the Year of the Rooster, 2006 the Year of the Dog and 2007 the Year of the Pig. By this system, year names are re-cycled every 12 years.
The Chinese New Year is ushered in with extensive cleaning of houses. On New Year's Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans and other cleaning equipment are put away. The belief is that sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away. Another practice is shooting fireworks on New Year's Eve to send out the old year and welcome the new one. Likewise the popular view is that all debts should be cleared by the time of the festival.
On New Year's Day, there is a host of culinary delights, customarily a vegetarian dish called jai. Though the ingredients in jai are root or fibrous vegetables, many a superstition is attached to them: for example lotus seeds signify having many male offspring, bamboo shoots is a term which sounds like “wishing that everything will be well”, while fresh bean curd or tofu is not included as it is white and unlucky for New Year as the colour signifies death and misfortune.
Other traditional foods include a whole fish, chicken, uncut noodles (to represent a long life), nian gao ( a sweet steamed glutinous rice pudding), man tou (steamed wheat bread) and small meat dumplings. The huge array of culinary delights is meant to symbolise abundance and wealth for the household.
Many Chinese in Dhaka are nostalgic about the occasion and the gusto with which they celebrated the festival in their younger days. However, albeit on a smaller scale, they will hopefully keep the tradition alive and pass on the legacy to future generations.
By Kavita Charanji
As the season changes, and the barometer bumps up a notch, it's time to chuck out the old and tired, and face the new month on a fresh note. In order to celebrate the month of the language movement, we have brought together a few fresh deshi items that we hope, will help you enjoy this season a little better.
Flavours of the season
Clothes for your phone!
By Farina Noireet
On the cover
Lifestyle this week coincides with Pohela Boshonto and thus ushers in the first day of the season that calls for a new lease on life and makes us embrace it afresh. Today's issue takes you places- places through the mind's eye where you have Spring all year round so flip through the pages and unleash your imagination.
Photo: Munem Wasif
Designing the right diet
Knowledge is power
Finding the right substitutes
Read the fine print
At the end of the day, people go on a diet to lose weight and feel better- both physically and mentally. So don't stress yourself by going on a fad diet. Do your research and diet the right way.
In our last issue, the name of one of the youth groups was misspelled. The correct spelling is EKMATTRA. We apologise for the mistake.
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