By Herald Reporter
HARARE - The Chinese community in Zimbabwe yesterday celebrated their Lunar New Year at a colourful ceremony held at the Africa Unity Square in Harare. The Lunar New Year that is also known as the Spring Festival, is an important Chinese traditional event that marks the end of the old year and the beginning of the New Year. Locally, the event is compared to the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The event was the first of its kind to be held locally.
Chinese and a number of local artists thrilled people who attended the occasion with polished performances. The artists were dressed in Chinese traditional outfits.
The event kicked off with a parade around the Africa Unity Square.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Xin Shunkang said his country was ready to help Zimbabwe in various sectors of the economy. This year, Ambassador Xin said, China wanted to donate an outside broadcasting van to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation with eight channels.
"We want to do something for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. We want to donate a big Outside Broadcasting van with eight channels and it is coming in the next six months," he said.
"China has also put aside US$14 million for food assistance and as we speak 600 containers of food are already on their way."
He said part of the consignment was already in the country.
Ambassador Xin said they also wanted to set up a solar energy plant in Zimbabwe in the next few months among other developmental projects.
He said the event was organised at short notice but Chinese people in Zimbabwe responded positively.
He said the parade by artistes was a gesture to show the good relations between Zimbabwe and China.
Ambassador Xin said relations between Beijing and Harare dated back to the latter's struggle for independence.
He said Chinese companies in Zimbabwe were doing their best to contribute towards social responsibility.
Ambassador Eddy Poerwana and Ambassador Charles Ray look so excited and impressed with the activities of the Chinese Lunar event at Africa Unity Square
Other foreign diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe who included Indonesian ambassador, Mr Eddy Poerwana and United States ambassador Mr Charles Ray attended the event. The Chinese New Year is the most important traditional Chinese holiday. Festival activities are held from the New Year's Day (first day of the first month in Chinese calendar) to the Lantern Festival (15th day of the month).
The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29,5 days. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar, the Chinese insert an extra month once every seven years.
This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.
The Chinese New Year is now popularly known as the Spring Festival because it starts from the beginning of Spring (the first of the 24 terms in co-ordination with the changes of nature). The long history of the Spring Festival dates back more than 4 000 years.
There are several explanations about its origins. All agree, however, that the word "Nian" (year) was originally the name of a monster that started to prey on people the night before the beginning of a new year. The Nian monster was huge-sized, with an antenna on its head. Usually, it lived in the deep ocean, but on New Year's Eve, it came out to prey on the livestock and people living in the villages.
Later, people discovered that the Nian monster was afraid of the red colour, bright lights and slam-bang noises. So on New Year's Eve, Chinese people put couplets written on red paper up on their gates, hung red lanterns across gate beams, set off fireworks and stayed up all night in hope of ringing out the old year and ringing in the new. Before the New Year, every family is busy giving its house a thorough cleaning, hoping to sweep away all the ill-fortune and make way for the wishful in-coming good luck.
People also give their doors and window-panes a new paint, usually in red colour. They decorate the doors and windows with paper-cuts and couplets with the very popular theme of "happiness", "wealth", "longevity" and "satisfactory marriages blessed with more children".
Paintings of the same theme are put up in the house on top of the newly mounted wall paper. In the old days, various kinds of food were presented to ancestors.
The Eve of the New Year is very carefully observed. Supper is a feast, with all members coming together.
One of the most popular courses is "jiaozi", dumplings boiled in water. After dinner, it is time for the whole family to sit up for the night while having fun playing cards or board games or watching TV programmes dedicated to the occasion.
At midnight, the whole sky will be lit up by fireworks and firecrackers. People's excitement reaches its zenith. Very early the next morning, children greet their parents and receive presents wrapped up in red paper packages. Then, the families start out to say greetings from door to door, first their relatives and then their neighbours. The air is permeated with warmth and friendliness.
The Dragon is a creature of myth and legend, a symbol of good fortune and sign of intense power. It is regarded as a divine beast, not like the malicious monster in the West. According to Eastern philosophy, the Dragon is said to be a deliverer of good fortune and a master of authority. Therefore, those people born in Dragon years are to be honoured and respected. - Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the Republic of Zimbabwe.