This Saturday, 25th January, marks the start of Chinese New Year and, with a Chinese population of almost 13,000 people in Birmingham, there will be plenty of celebrations in the local area. Mission Translate first takes a look at some of the traditions of Chinese New Year and then shares what events you can expect to see around our city centre.
The timing of Chinese New Year varies, as it depends on the Lunar Calendar; beginning on its first day and lasting until the 15th of the first month. In 2020, celebrations begin on the 25th January and last until the 8th February.
Chinese New Year is also referred to as the Spring Festival and Yuán Dàn (元旦), meaning the beginning. In the same way that we celebrate our New Year, the Chinese also mark New Year’s Eve, falling on the 24th January in 2020. Families gather together and celebrate with reunion dinners. Children are given traditional, money-filled, red envelopes, as a symbol of good wishes for the year ahead, and are encouraged to stay up late with the family to welcome in the New Year.
The start of Chinese New Year is greeted with fireworks, as well as blessings and predictions for what the future months have in store. In the days that follow, many traditional activities take place that are often steeped in superstition. These may include prayers, offerings and feasting. Many of these, like the Chinese calendar, recognise animals. For example, on February 1st, known as the Day of the Millet, it is traditional for pets, such as fish and birds, to be released back into the wild. This is to show respect for nature. This does not happen so frequently today, but families still visit farms and rural areas to acknowledge this link to nature.
The New Year celebrations climax on 8th February with lantern festivals. As these lanterns, decorated with riddles, are released into the night, lit by the full moon, people gather on the last day of the celebrations to enjoy this beautiful spectacle.
Birmingham shares in the Chinese New Year celebrations throughout this period. From the 24th January to 2nd February, parts of the city centre, such as Rotunda Square, St. Martin’s Walk and St. Martins Square will host dazzling light exhibitions. These 5 interactive light sculptures, part of the much-loved Festival of Light, include ‘Birds Fly Around With You’, ‘Neon Angel Wings’ and ‘Pulse’ and will enchant both children and adults alike with their creative, magical displays. New Year wishes can also be added to a special Wish Tree featured in Grand Central.
On Chinese New Year’s Day, visitors to Birmingham city centre can take part in the colourful lion and dragon procession, which returns to the city again, making its way through the Bullring, Grand Central and The Arcadian. The procession also features other live acts, such as classical fan and umbrella dancers, face-changing performances, Shaolin Warriors and light-up stilt walkers. These performances can be enjoyed again on the following day, Sunday 26th January, in Hippodrome Square.
If you are celebrating Chinese New Year this weekend, or during the days that follow, Mission Translate would love to share your stories and pictures. Just include them in the comments below.
By Lorna Paice