Chinese Prefer Traditional “Tiger” Celebration

by Jingjing Li
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Regardless of how long they have been living in London, most Chinese people still celebrate the New Year, or the so-called Spring Festival, in their traditional ways.

Gluing the Spring Festival couplets to the wall and hanging two big red lanterns in front of his door, Jiang is busy decorating his house on the eve of the Chinese New Year, which fell on February 14 this year.

Both the couplets and red lanterns are symbolic objects for the Chinese New Year celebration, which suggest a flourishing beginning.

Jiang moved to London nine years ago. He now lives with his wife and daughter. Growing up in Shanghai, Jiang still persists in celebrating the Chinese New Year as traditionally as he can.

“My wife and I got up very early this morning, and cleaned the house for a couple of hours. After that, we took our daughter to the Chinese supermarket to buy some traditional food for the New Year’s Eve,” said Jiang, with his face beaming with joy.

Starting off the year with luck

Among other traditional customs, cleaning the house before the New Year’s Day is the most fundamental step. It symbolises sweeping away all the bad lucks that might have piled up over the year and can bring good luck in the coming year according to Chinese belief.

On New Year’s Eve, the most important tradition is for families to gather and have a hearty meal. Jiaozi, more commonly known as Chinese dumpling, is the most essential menu.

“Every New Year’s Eve, my family makes Jiaozi together. At the same time, we have many other festive foods as they symbolize abundance, and good luck, such as fish and rice cake,” explained Jiang.

Being asked whether there are any differences between his celebration of New Year in China and in the UK, Jiang shook his head saying: “I’ve been used to it for 32 years, I do the same things as if I was in China.”

Unlike Jiang, this is the first time for Qiu to celebrate the Chinese New Year in London. She comes from Shenzhen in southern China to study in England.

Sticking to Traditions

On New Year’s Eve, Qiu prepared dinner with other Chinese students. It included Jiaozi as well as other dishes. For New Year’s Day, they planned to see lion dances in China Town, another traditional celebration for this occasion.

“I seldom celebrated Spring Festival through those traditional ways in China, but after coming here, living as a foreigner in London, I’d like to celebrate it through traditional ways, as it makes me feel safe, and keep in touch with my home country as a Chinese,” said Qiu.

Apart from traditional celebrations in China Town, many museums and galleries such as the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum participate in the Chinese New Year celebrations in London by launching special exhibitions.

Based on the Chinese lunar calendar, the actual date of the Chinese New Year varies every year. Each year is represented by one particular animal in the Chinese zodiac.

This year is marked by the Tiger, a year said to promise great economy and heroic powers, but doubtful marriages.