Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is now a global celebration. Chinese immigrants brought the Chinese New Year celebration into Manchester Chinatown, which takes place on the first Sunday after Chinese New Year’s Day, usually between late January and late February depending on the Lunar calendar. 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit.
The sound of music and firecrackers can be heard as the Dragon dance moves from Manchester Town Hall towards Chinatown. According to legend, this drives away evil spirits. The sounds of the festival parade can be heard everywhere in the city, adding to the atmosphere of rejoicing and festivity. Later, the Lion dance and the unicorn weave around Chinatown visiting each business to bring prosperity for the forthcoming year. The Lion spits lettuce into the air causing the following crowds to laugh.
“ The unicorn (Kylin) belongs to the Hakka culture and is actually more powerful against evil than the lion. All evil spirits are frightened of its horn. “
~ Master Chu
Local Mancunians come to join the festival in Chinatown. They sample Chinese cuisine and buy souvenirs from the many stalls selling arts and crafts. The Dragon Lantern Dance and the Lion Dance and Chinese performers meet on a big stage in the car park at the heart of Chinatown and perform. The event attracts thousands of people every year.
For many of the Manchester Chinese Community, New Year’s Eve is even more important than the street party. New Year’s Eve is a time for a reunion of all family members, when they sit around the table to have a sumptuous New Year’s Eve dinner, talking and laughing until daybreak, or “staying up to see the year out”. When the clock ticks midnight on New Year’s Eve, people eat dumplings. Others visit the Chinese Buddhist temple at midnight to worship ancestors and gods, and ask for a ‘blessing’, an important part of Chinese custom in Manchester.
The traditional Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao) is becoming more and more popular in Manchester. Celebrated close to the Chinese New Year, its name comes from the fact that first Lunar month is called Yuanyue and Xiao means night. The night of the 15th day of the first Lunar month marks the appearance of the first full moon.
It’s a tradition to admire lanterns at the festival. The custom started in the Han Dynasty, and has a history of more than 2,000 years. Nowadays, the Manchester Chinese community Lantern Festival is mainly for children as an ‘Achievement Night’, where good work at school and elsewhere is rewarded.
The Manchester Chinese Centre celebrates Lantern Festival by inviting children create their own lanterns and enter them into a competition. As night falls on a cold February evening, children carry their lanterns and crowd round to admire each other’s colourful creations. Lanterns come in all different shapes and forms, some lanterns even have riddles on them. One of the most exciting lanterns is the sky lantern; a large lantern which once lit flies high in the sky.