“Why do we celebrate the Chinese New Year?” This actually was the question that was asked by the MC at the Chinese New Year celebration at Old China Town in Kolkata. There was time to kill before the performances were to begin and the host decided on an impromptu quiz to keep the crowd engaged. She kept on repeating the question, but no one volunteered to come on stage to answer. Someone standing behind me wise-cracked- “So that you can eat more and drink more and get fatter!”
And in my mind, I go “wow”, there’s a story behind their New Year celebrations! I decided I just had to stick around to find out why. So, I say, if YOU are curious to know why, then read on….
For the un-initiated, the Chinese New Year was on 10th February, but was celebrated here on the 3rd. This is the Year of the Snake, which is believed to be good for businesses.
The Chinese community in Kolkata is small and there was not much publicity about the event amongst the non-Chinese. How I came to know about it, is an interesting story.
I had gone for Breakfast at Chinatown on the morning of the 3rd. While I was engrossed in clicking photos, suddenly someone shouted out my name. I saw a young lady waving. Turns out, this beautiful and smart lady was the kid sister of a school friend of mine. I think the last time I had met her was nearly couple of decades back when she was a cute little kid whom I used to tease incessantly!
While we were chatting, she happened to mention that the same evening there would a big celebration for the Chinese New Year, and yes, there will be a Dragon Dance too!
That decided it. I just had to come back in the evening.
Reaching the place at evening, I found the entire area enclosed, and there were guards who demanded a pass to enter. I enquired if I could buy a ticket, but apparently entry was through invitation only. I was a little disappointed. Having travelled such a long distance, I was just not willing to leave without a try. Lady luck showed her face in the form of two Chinese ladies chatting just outside the enclosure. I approached them and told them about my situation. I did not have a pass but wanted to see the show!
They said “No problem, come along with us. No one will stop you.”
And just like that I was inside!
I positioned myself near the stage so that I could get a clear view. I quickly made friends with few gentlemen and a very nice lady who were standing beside me. Thanks to them, I never felt out-of-place, considering I was the only non-Chinese standing there! In fact, while photographing, when sometimes I was having trouble getting a particular shot, they would even ask the person obstructing my view, to move slightly! When they were having some snacks, I was offered the same. I accepted graciously.
The program itself was thoroughly enjoyable. There were performances by school kids, who sang melodious songs, followed by some martial arts and dance performances. The star of the show was Thomas Chen, who was introduced as the Chinese Stevie Wonder! He had a very nice voice. Of course, I understood no lyrics, but hey, music transcends languages. And of course, there was the Dragon dance. It looks easy and effortless, but requires tremendous coordination! To put it simply, I loved it.
And yes, to get back to the original question by the MC, “Why do we celebrate the Chinese New Year?” The answer from her was-“”Guys, we celebrate the New Year……to usher in the New Year”!! J
Sharing few pictures of those memorable moments.