Chinese New Year 2016: in Cairns

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Brian Hennessy and Yirong Li. China Australia Consult. February, 2016

Chinese New Year: in Cairns

Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as it is known locally, is China's longest and most important festival. In 2016 it will commence on the 8th February and will continue for 15 days.

According to the Chinese zodiac, this year’s Spring Festival will welcome in the year of the Monkey. People born in a year of the Monkey are supposed to be witty, intelligent, and have a magnetic personality. Those are the positive virtues. The opposite observation is that they can also be very crafty opportunists. 

In China, prior to Spring Festival, houses will have been cleaned in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for incoming good luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red paper-cuts and characters spelling out themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth, and longevity. And to make sure that the new year is begun with a clean slate, any outstanding debts will be repaid.

Chinese people value family – the Confucian bedrock of this ancient society – and during Spring Festival the extended family will gather together for a celebratory banquet. The host or senior member will welcome everyone, and invite them to join him in a toast wishing those present a happy and prosperous new year.

This is done with baijiu, a barley based spirit. We know it in the West as maotai. As the meal progresses, family members will get the chance to individually toast everyone present. This reinforces family ties while promoting goodwill and harmony.

After this meal, folk will enjoy a few days in each others’ company playing mah-jong, eating leftovers from the banquet, and watching variety shows on TV. In a sometimes fickle and uncaring world, they know that a strong family is the best insurance against cruel fate.

Chinese families enjoy being together during Spring Festival just like Westerners enjoy being together at Christmas. Absent relatives will be visited, money will be given in red envelopes, and firecrackers and rockets will be lit in order to banish any bad spirits which might have been hanging around. These ancient cultural traditions help to bind a family together.

During this time family members will speak kind words to each other. They will do this because they believe that bad words spoken in the beginning of the year may attract bad luck for the rest of the year. It is important to celebrate the new year with correct behaviour and good intentions.

There will be celebrations in Cairns also, as generations of Australian Chinese people remember their connections to their core culture.

A warm Australian welcome to those Chinese citizens who will arrive by aircraft to spend this year’s Spring Festival in Cairns. 

Perhaps we could welcome our Chinese guests with: Huan ying (Welcome); Xin nian kuaile (Happy New Year); and Gong xi fa cai (Hope you will be rich).

Happy Chinese New year to everybody!







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