Monday, February 18, 2008

Kung Hey Fat Choy

Kung Hey Fat Choi - that means Happy New Year in Chinese. It was the start of the Chinese New Year - The Year of the Rat and there were loads of activities to mark the New Year. I had enjoyed the festivities which held last year and didnt want to miss out on this year's festivities and so off I went to Trafalgar Square and Chinatown for the New Year festival.

This year is the Year of the Rat. Each year in the chinese calendar is represented by an animal. It is believed by the chinese that Budha asked animals to meet him at the time of the New Year and so each new year is represented by the twelve animals (like a mascot) that came. 2008 is known as the Year of the Rat. Since there are 12 animal names, year names are re-cycled every 12 years. The chinese believe that every person born in the year of each animal has features of that animal's personality. Other animals are the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

This year, I arrived in good time for the parade - I missed the parade last year ans wasnt prepared to miss out on the parade also this year. Thus, I was able to get a good spot where I could take loads of pictures unhindered. There were loads and loads of proper 'paps' like me there armed with their digital and DSLR cameras. I just refused to be oppressed by those carrying or hanging DSLR cameras and promised myself that come next year, I'll have one too hanging round my neck to oppress those who allow themselves to be oppressed. (smile)

The parade was lovely. Loads and loads of paps or should I say official photographers led the way and we sightseers had to beg them to get out of the way so the rest of us could take proper pictures too. (Smile) Then came the town crier, the mascots of the Beijing Olympics, then some 'rats', cartoon charaters, then gaily dressed dance troupes and cultural groups, lucky dragons, little kids dressed in beautifully made and brightly coloured garmets, they were a joy to behold. Of course, they smiled happily for those of us edging each other to take pictures. There were some acrobats too who performed some wonderful and daring cartwheels for the crowd as the parade went along.

It was an enjoyable parade even though a short one and it was soon over before it begun and off we went to trafalgar square for the dotting of the eyes of the dragon and other cultural performances lined up on the stage at the square. The blindfold was removed from the dragon and the dignitaries present were invited to 'dot' the eyes of the dragon. The dragon was supposedly brought onto the stage blind and when its eyes were painted on, it awoke and brought good luck into the new year. The sun shone brightly - too brightly for those of us amateurs with cameras. It was blinding our focus and there was nowhere to hide.

There were fireworks displays every hour from 2pm at Leceister Square and they were lovely. I didnt take a lot of pictures of the fireworks cos my sprint between Trafalgar Square and Leceister Square just before the hour each time wasnt enough to get me a good picture taking spot. (Smile) After the dotting of the eyes of the dragon, the money god arrived and then the cultural music, display and dances began. It is believed that red represents fire and that fire keeps away bad luck and brings prosperity and thus there were loads and loads of red lanterns in the square and around Chinatown, Leceister Square and Oxford Circus to keep away bad sprits and bring good luck.

I'm glad I went. Pictures from the Chinese New Year Celebrations can be viewed HERE. Gong Xi Fa Cai!