I was about 20 when I encountered Chinese New Year for the first time. We were holidaying in Hong Kong, which was British in those days and went across the border to The People’s Republic of China.
It was amazing. Bicycles were loaded up with decorations. Everyone was getting readily for New Year. I wished that I was going to be in China for a while longer. I would have loved to have seen it.
During New Year, red is everywhere. It is the colour of luck and happiness. Children receive money wrapped in red paper. Adult exchange poems written on red paper. The Chinese New Year is also an opportunity to remember ancestors, and to wish peace and happiness to friends and family. The lunar new year begins on Saturday 28 January. 2017 is the year of the Red Fire Rooster.
Are you a Rat, a Rooster or one of the other animals? Find out!
The holiday ends with the Festival of Lanterns. In Christchurch, The Lantern Festival will be held on 17-19 February. The best time to see the lanterns is after dark, but if you can’t get there at night, a day time visit is worth while. At night, the lanterns are bright colours in a dark park. During the day, the lanterns are not lit, but are colourful reds and yellows in a green park.
If you are interested in learning Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, We have a collection of books and language courses to suit all levels. We also have Mango Languages. This is an online learning system that will help you learn many languages. It also has lessons for learning English for speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Japanese speakers. Use at a library or enter your library card & password / PIN.
CINCH is our Community Information Christchurch database. It has a list of a range of religious, arts and cultural organizations that meet the needs of the Chinese community.
See how the libraries have celebrated Lunar New Year in previous years.
Library scavenger hunt – quizzes, Chinese Zodiac Challenge and lantern riddles: simple quizzes to get to know your library, make a quest on the Chinese Zodiac, solve the Chinese lantern riddles to get your brain exercised.
Chinese New Year Colouring in: great for adults and kids.
A display on researching Chinese family history in New Zealand – interesting historical photos, articles from family history databases, research done by library family history expert – looking into the life of early Chinese settlers in New Zealand.
Bilingual storytelling: bilingual stories from library staff on Chinese New Year, learn simple Mandarin and get your body moving.
Upper Riccarton Library Saturday 20 February Technology taster – 3D printing, 3D pen to make your own creation;
Shadow puppet show – taste this wonderful Chinese tradition and get to know the Monkey King from the famous Chinese novel “Journey To The West”;
Quiver – bring your colouring alive;
Craft – make your own lanterns
In the weekend, we took the kids along to the Lantern Festival in Hagley Park. This was a first for me, even though the festival has been going for several years now.
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting…something a bit more than a few lanterns strung between the trees I guess, but not the beautiful, elaborate lanterns in the shape of animals, dragons and Ming vases. They were (in the words of the Young Lad) “very awesome!” even in the early evening light.
The lion and dragon dancers were wonderful, it was great to see them dancing through the crowd. The kids especially enjoyed the fireworks and their helium balloons. Although my family of gastronomic neophobes didn’t try the Asian cuisine, if the queues were anything to go by the food was great too. I’d say it was definitely worth the fight for a carpark!
When I was a teenager our art teacher used to take us on sketching trips to the museum. The idea was that we would spend our time sketching rather unattractive stuffed animals. It soon became a problem to extract me from the Asian Gallery. The beauty and sophistication of the ceramics and carvings there held my attention long after I left school.
However, they weren’t objects that I associated with New Zealand until many years later. What did Asia have to do with us who were so attached to the British Isles? It wasn’t until the 70s, after Britain cut the economic ties by joining the EEC (EU), that I began to appreciate that our future lay with our neighbours in Polynesia and Asia.
Then in the 1980s books by authors Manying Ip and James Ng again transformed my awareness – this time of the history of Chinese in New Zealand – with their readable and often beautifully illustrated books.
Our growing awareness of our own country’s history over the intervening decades and our understanding of our real geographical place in the world, has made us all a great deal more aware of China and what early Chinese immigrants endured here. This was a place where they hoped to find peace and enough money to help families trapped by poverty, famine and political unrest.Instead they endured lives of great hardship and put up with degrading prejudice. Initially wives generally stayed in China to look after family and later the Poll Tax made it almost impossible to bring them here, so many men remained single. At one time there were 4995 Chinese men in New Zealand but only 9 women. Making a life here wasn’t easy.
New Zealand was the first country to apologise to their Chinese community for the Poll Tax – a representation of decades of unfair immigration policies and prejudice.
These days, snippets of the rich culture Chinese immigrants bring with them are beginning to reach the rest of the community, most noticeably in the form on Chinese New Year celebrations. In Christchurch we celebrate with a Lantern Festival in Hagley Park at the beginning of March. However, New Year celebrations officially begin on 10 February and this one ushers in the year of the snake, apparently signifying a good year for science and research.
One of my favourite times of year is Chinese New Year also known as Lunar New Year. This year it falls on 23 January 2012 and is the Year of the Dragon in Chinese astrology.
I am a fan of lanterns – Upper Riccarton Library is re-opening on Monday 23 January, and on their opening day they will have a Lantern Making workshop.
This year the Lantern Festival will be at the Carlton Corner end of North Hagley Park on 11 and 12 February 2012. Bring along your loved ones for a vibrant colourful spectacle with delicious aromas and exotic performances.