Sunday, 10 February 2013

LIFE OVERSEAS: Lunar New Year in a foreign land

IN Malaysia, Chinese New Year is indeed a time of festivity when relatives from all over the world gather for the reunion dinner. However, since the Lunar New Year is not a national celebration in Ireland, there is not much of a festive air.

There are not many events to mark the occasion in the small town where I live. So last year, I visited the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival, which was in its fifth year. The anual event brings a sense of home to Chinese immigrants.

Dressed in a cheongsam, I made my way to Temple Bar, the venue. People of many nationalities joined in the celebrations to learn about Chinese New Year.

Cinemas held special screenings of films in various Chinese dialects, with English subtitles, of course. Food stalls sold Chinese food such as steaming hot dim sum and bak chang (glutinous rice dumplings)!

There was a fusion of Chinese and fast food which included spring roll, fried noodles, chips and chicken goujons.

As I wandered around, taking in the beauty and atmosphere of my surroundings, a father and son caught my eye.

The little Chinese boy was sitting comfortably on his father’s shoulders, experiencing the activities from a higher perspective. The lad was dressed in traditional Chinese costume from head to toe in vibrant ruby red, electric blue and silvery gold.

In his hand was a rattle-drum on sale at the stalls, which also sold many traditional Chinese toys. Accordion-like toy paper dragons were popular with children.

After browsing the stalls, I watched magnificent lion and dragon dances. The loud clashing cymbals and booming drums enhanced the performances as agile dancers moved with precision. The lion and dragon bore the colours of the Irish flag — green, white and orange.

Many Chinese families watched admiringly as they welcomed Chinese New Year. A lot of Irish parents with adopted Chinese children were there too. The parents were proud that their children were from a different culture and made sure that they grew up with an understanding of their roots.

This year, the sixth edition of the festival features the year of the snake. Hopefully, I will be able to witness the excitement of the occasion in Dublin.

In the absence of some of my family and friends, Chinese New Year is not the same as in Malaysia. Visiting open houses is not part of my celebration. Angpow packets are hard to come by when you live halfway across the world from your relatives.

On the bright side, I still peel Mandarin oranges and eat them segment by segment. At least one of my traditions is maintained.

Happy Chinese New Year!

The writer is studying at a high school in Ireland. She loves to try all things but is a Malaysian at heart

Read more: LIFE OVERSEAS: Lunar New Year in a foreign land - You - New Straits Times

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