Red envelopes stuffed with cash as gifts
exchanged hands, and colourful dragon and lion dancers streamed in and out of
decorated residences here Friday, ushering in the Chinese lunar New Year. The
azure night sky lit up with firecrackers, as youth and teenagers soaked in the
festivities, and the Year of the Horse in the Chinese almanac imbued the
community with the gift of speed. The essence of the festival is the spirit of
renewal and family reunions.
The first day of the Chinese New Year is
the most significant in the Chinese calendar. The celebrations last 15 days and
culminate with the Lantern Festival. Each year is associated with one of the 12
animals in the Chinese zodiac. For 2014, it's the horse in its wooden aspect.
"The horse or wooden horse symbolises speed and energy. It inspires us to
pick up the pending work and speed it up. However, one must be careful in doing
things in a hurry," Indian Chinese Association president Paul Chung told
an English daily.
Kolkata's 4,000 strong Chinese community -
settled mainly in the city's eastern Tangra area and the largest in the country
- celebrated the occasion with a strong emphasis on renewing familial ties. The
lion and dragon dancers moved to the pulsating beats of drums -- they were
supposed to bring good luck during the year ahead. "We have lion dancers
who entered each house of the community to bring good luck to the household.
There were dragon dances too amidst loud drumming. Both lions and dragons are
considered auspicious by Chinese," Chung said.
on the traditions
"But our theme is family bonding. It
is a time for reunions. If ties within family are well established, then
society is well established. We have tried to bring back that part of our
culture and we have succeeded," Chung said while explaining that in the
run-up to the New Year, everybody embarked on a cleaning spree a week ago. One
of the customs to strengthen relationships was handing traditional red
envelopes filled with cash.
"Adults gave their parents a red envelope
filled with cash as a token of good luck. Grandparents handed over cash-filled
red envelopes to their grandchildren as a blessing. This is like a cycle. It
strengthens the bonds within our families. Our families are very close-knit
units," said Chung. After the festivities quietened down, the families sat
together to savour a course of an entire fish specially cooked for the
red-letter - rather red envelope - day. "Fish in Chinese means extra. So
you will get everything in extra amounts this year," added Chung.