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A cultural day of dance, acrobatics, delicious food and entertainment is planned to celebrate Chinese new year, the start of the year of the dragon.
CHINESE residents of Joburg will join their compatriots around the world in painting the town red over the next three weeks to welcome the Year of the Dragon.

DanceDancers will entertain the publicCelebrations to mark the new year, one of the important festivals on the Chinese calendar, start today and run until 9 February. This year marks the Chinese year 4710. The event is also known as the spring festival in China.

In Joburg, celebrations will take place on 28 January at Brightwater Commons in Randburg, where the China National Acrobatics Troupe will entertain visitors from 11am to 5pm.

The internationally renowned troupe incorporates music, dance, opera and kung fu into their acrobatic programmes.

“We pride ourselves on hosting events that encourage the community to explore some of the diverse cultures that make up our land. Chinese new year has attracted not just the Chinese community in the past, but many Joburg citizens who want to learn more about the culture,” says Francois du Buisson, the marketing manager at Brightwater Commons.

“It is considered the longest and most important event in the Chinese calendar. This year’s festivities are going to be even better than previous years, with a host of exhibitions and stalls, a spectacular opening ceremony and breath-taking feats of the China National Acrobatics Troupe.”

The opening ceremony at 1pm will include a colourful display of dragon and lion dancing. Next up, a cultural variety show will include traditional dancers and singers dressed up in their finery.

Rounding off the entertainment for the day, the acrobats will show off their gravity-defying, daredevil acts. The troupe was established over 50 years ago and has performed in more than 80 countries. Visitors can make themselves comfortable on the grassy commons to enjoy the display on the stage and either bring a picnic or try the Chinese delicacies on sale at a variety of food stalls.

Events to celebrate the Chinese New Year will be held around JoburgEvents to celebrate the Chinese New Year will be held around JoburgIn the promotions court, there will be a photographic architectural exhibition of Beijing that will help to help bring the Far East closer to home. Those with an artistic leaning can learn more about Chinese arts and crafts with paper cutting, sugar art and calligraphy, as well as noodle art.

During new year festivities, people traditionally wear red clothing, decorate red paper with poems and give children “lucky money” in red envelopes. Red, which symbolises fire, is the most prominent colour and according to legend drives away bad luck.

Most families begin preparations for new year a month or more in advance. This involves getting their hair cut, which is a must as cutting anything over the festival is considered bad luck; cleaning the house, every nook and cranny must be cleaned and discarded furniture must be tossed away, and dirt must be swept towards the door to sweep away ill fortune and make way for good luck; and preparing for the feasts. Festival food includes dumplings and laba zhou, a special hot rice porridge.

On New Year’s Eve, supper is a feast with families, a reunion dinner. New clothes are essential and gifts are often customary, given when visiting a person’s house. They are often wrapped in red.

Pork, duck, chicken and sweet delicacies are on the menu, and the family usually ends the night with firecrackers. These fireworks date back to ancient customs, when people lit bamboo sticks, believing that the crackling noises from the flames would frighten away evil spirits.

Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and will receive money in red paper envelopes.

Lantern festival
These celebrations are followed by a lantern festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month. People hang these lanterns in temples and carry them to an evening parade under the full moon.

Chinese wares will be on saleChinese ware will be on saleLanterns are decorated with works of art, painted with birds, animals, flowers, zodiac signs, scenes from history, and legendary tales. In many areas, the highlight of the lantern festival is the dragon dance. The dragon – which can stretch up to 30 metres long – is typically made of silk, paper and bamboo. Traditionally, the dragon is held aloft by young men who dance while guiding the colourful masterpiece through the streets.

Occupying the fifth position in the Chinese zodiac, the dragon is the mightiest of the signs. According to Chinese months, which are calculated by the lunar calendar, each month starts on the darkest day.People born in the year of the dragon are said to be innovative, brave and passionate.

According to Chinese legend, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on new year. Twelve animals came and Buddha in turn named a year after each one. It was announced that people born in each animal’s year would possess some of that animal’s characteristics.

The Chinese new year is a time for reconciliation, forgetting past grudges and wishing for peace and happiness. The year of the dragon will last for 12 months until 10 February 2013, making way for the year of the snake.

China is the most populous nation in the world, with 56 ethnic groups making up the population of more than a billion people. The Han is the largest group, numbering 1,1 billion people, or 93,3 percent of the country’s population. Minorities total 160 million people, only 6,7 percent of the Chinese nation. Some 20 of these minority groups have fewer than 50 000 people each.

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