The Year of the Dog: Chinese New Year 2018

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We celebrated Chinese New Year yesterday (Friday, Feb 16). Legend has it that ‘Nian’, a monster used to terrorise the people of a village. Everyone would leave their houses to go to safer grounds, before the monster’s annual visit. However one night, a wise old man decided to stay and confront it. It’s year of the Dog, says, Suveera, in the weekly column. A Different Truths exclusive.

I wake up from my afternoon siesta to some loud banging. My son is thrashing a ladle on a steel plate, making deafening sounds. I am out of the bed with a jump, before the neighbors call the police on me. “What are you up to?” I demanded. “Mom, I am scaring away ‘Nian’ the monster.”

I remembered. We celebrated Chinese New Year yesterday (Friday, Feb 16). Legend has it that ‘Nian’, a monster used to terrorise the people of a village. Everyone would leave their houses to go to safer grounds, before the monster’s annual visit. However one night, a wise old man decided to stay and confront it. He faced the demon and scared it away by loud deafening noises, firecrackers and red paint on the windows and walls. Soon all the villagers followed the course and everyone started to face their fears and fight the monster with firecrackers and loud noises. Gradually this became a tradition, and to this day it is followed on every Chinese New Year.

The streets are adorned with beautiful red and gold lanterns admonishing the grey of the cold winter. Melodious music plays everywhere. Mandarin trees placed around shops and houses to bring good luck. Dancing lions with gongs are walking the streets. It’s a different world!

The Lunar New Year is the most important festival of the Chinese. The entire city comes alive with colour and fragrance. It is the time to meet and greet and family reunions.

The Chinese New Year marks the world’s largest annual human migration. People from all over the world come back to their homes to celebrate the festival with their loved ones. Last year around 3 billion people traveled. To put it into perspective, it is over 8 times the entire population of USA moving. Over twice the total population of India. For many perhaps it is the only time to be together with their families the whole year. Needless to say, it is a huge responsibility for the authorities. Officials are busy conducting safety and anti-terrorism drills.

Nevertheless, it is a time to celebrate and rejoice. Our family always goes to see the Lion dance performance at the local residents ‘club. It is an intense experience especially for little kids sitting and watching the performer in an elaborate fierce looking lion costume, do tricky acrobatics and listening to the gongs. I remember my son jumping with every single jump of the lion when he was little.

It is common practice to send gifts and rice to business associates and extended family. Purchasing new clothes symbolizes a new start. Any haircuts need to be completed before the New Year as cutting hair on that day is considered unlucky. People spring clean their homes to throw out the negativity and allow good luck to enter. Small red packets (called lai see) with some money as a gift, are given to children and elderly.

It is beautiful to see how the festive atmosphere infects one and all irrespective of nationality. Also how the underlying theme of the triumph of good over evil is the common thread of major celebrations across all religions and nations.

For me, it is a day to visit my Chinese friends and celebrate with them. Also a time for looking within and introspecting. A time of new beginnings and of freeing myself of negativity and resentments that I accumulate over the year and of igniting the firecracker of hope, and scaring away the ‘Nian’ inside.

©Suveera Sharma

Photos from the Internet, sourced from the author

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Suveera Sharma is a postgraduate in English and a qualified software trainer. She is an avid reader and writer. Being the daughter of an army officer, she spent her childhood in various cantonments all over India. At present, she is settled in Hong Kong. She runs storytelling sessions for little kids and writes in her spare time.