Hop to it! Celebrating the Year of the Rabbit in Lancaster

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It’s that time of year again! Chinese New Year is one of the most important traditional holidays in China. But what exactly does it entail, and when is it? Well every year the date changes as it relies on the lunar and solar calendar, and this year it falls on February 3, and it’s the year of the Rabbit under the Chinese zodiac calendar. Some famous Rabbits include Albert Einstein and Marie Curie, and if you’re born under this sign you’re likely to make a good Lawyer or Diplomat.

Chinese New Year relies heavily on several myths and traditions and celebrations span over several days. Sending out chinese lanterns on December 31st has become a trend recently in the UK, and this traditional activity in China is known as the Lantern Festival (and is celebrated on the fifteenth and final day), and is based on the ancient story of Yuanxiao, a maid in the emperor’s palace who wanted to go home to celebrate New Year with her family. She convinced the emperor that the God of Fire had visited her and said he planned to burn down the city, and the Emperor then had the entire city put up colored lanterns and light firecrackers to make it look like the city was already on fire, and the distraction meant that Yuanxiao could sneak home.

So put on a pair of lucky red pants and get involved in the wide variety of activities on in Lancaster to celebrate the New Year. We interviewed the organiser of this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations in Lancaster, Raymond Chan, who works with the Hua Xian Chinese Society;

Are there any differences in celebrations from what other Societies do at Lancaster?

In previous years Lancaster has played host to different celebrations hosted by other local Chinese groups as well as Chinese student societies at the Universities. I have had the pleasure of going to each of these and enjoyed all of them. Each have been slightly different in the performances but ultimately it is all about getting together for a party and enjoy Chinese culture.

What is your favourite part of New Year celebrations?
Traditionally the Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days and while most people around the world makes the first day the most important, the last day called Yuan Xiao Jie also popularly known as the Lantern Festival is very popular. As it’s name suggests – Lanterns are lit across the house and in the streets ready for when people would have a meal outside so they can watch the full moon. It’s just a shame its too cold in the UK this time of year!

Have you ever celebrated Chinese New Year in China?
Although I have been to China it has never been during the New Year. I have seen the celebrations on TV and it looks amazing. The fireworks in Beijing alone were spectacular and I know the food would be great too! It is definitely on my to do list.

What are the dates and times for Lancaster’s Chinese New Year’s celebrations?
The big celebrations in the heart of Lancaster city centre on Sunday 30th January where there will be Chinese New Year Markets from 10am – 4pm, the spectacular Lion Dance, Red Fan Chinese Dance Society, martial arts displays, arts and crafts workshops and the Chinese New Year Parade. All the performances will be on from 12noon till 3pm. The Festival itself runs from the 27th January to the 17th February with a range of activities happening right across Lancaster – just go to www.lancasterchinesenewyear.com for the latest information.

Can we expect anything different from last year?
There have been major changes as it has really grown and developed over the year. What used to be a one-day event is now a large outdoor event in the city centre with programme of events right across Lancaster for a whole month! As I am a very keen on contemporary art, my highlight will be the exhibition by Canadian-Chinese artist Ed Pien at the Storey Gallery from the 5th February. It is an incredible walk through art installation exploring themes surrounding migrant workers.

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