Cultural Activities and Events
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is the most important annual celebration for Chinese people. It usually falls in late January or February in the Western calendar. Celebrations center on the family and involve a great variety of traditional and colorful observances. To set the scene for a better year to come, families gather for feasting, wear new clothes, give and receive gifts, and surround themselves with symbols of good luck and good fortune. As has been done for generations, Chinese couplets or phrases bearing messages of good wishes are used as decorations everywhere.
On New Year’s Eve, great family feasts are held. A lion dance is performed, including the lighting of fire-crackers to bring in the New Year. Traditional treats are served. Amongst these are melon seeds, preserved and crystallized fruits, taro chips, and New Year pudding. Each connotes happiness, prosperity and long life. On New Year’s day and the days following, relatives and friends visit each other, bearing with them gifts of fruits and sweets, whilst youngsters are offered lucky red packets containing money. The common greetings at this time are ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ in Mandarin or ‘Kung Hay Fat Choy’ in Cantonese, meaning ‘Wishing you a prosperous New Year.’
The Lantern Festival is the 15th day after Chinese New Year and marks the end of the new year celebrations. Lanterns in classic designs appear on market stalls, decorating homes, restaurants and Temples. Traditionally, riddles were displayed on the lanterns to be solved as a game.
Ching Ming Festival
The Ching Ming Festival occurs in April. Members of the family get together to show their gratitude to their ancestors and departed loved ones. On the day, family members clean and tidy tombs and places of burial or cremation and make offerings to the deceased with incense, fruits and flowers.
The Moon Festival is also a major Chinese event and occurs on the 15th day of lunar August. It is also called the Mid-Autumn Festival as it is that season at that time in China. The special moon cakes eaten at the Festival recall an uprising against the Mongols in the 13th century, when the call to revolt was written on pieces of paper and smuggled to compatriots embedded in cakes. Nowadays, the cakes are filled with lotus paste, sometimes with sesame seeds or dates or preserved duck egg yolk inside, and are sold before the festival. Brightly colored lanterns in traditional shapes – rabbit, fish, star fruit – are hung for decoration.
Moon Festival is mainly a family occasion; children are allowed to stay up late to light their lanterns and play with them. The family then gathers together to watch the moon rise while they eat moon cakes. Moon Festival is often made more fascinating by a number of beautiful legends about the moon. One of these is the story of a beautiful lady called Chang–E who lives alone on the moon. Another is the legend of Wu Gang chopping a laurel tree on the moon.