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Xīnnián hǎo and Happy New Year! It’s the Year of the Dog and Wenona has been celebrating with lanterns, lion dances, drumming and dumplings.
The origins of Chinese New Year are thousands of years old and steeped in legend. In Chinese culture, the colour red is associated with wealth and good fortune. During Chinese New Year, it is common to see lanterns hanging in the streets, from office buildings and at the doors of houses to drive off bad luck. This week Wenona has been a riot of colour, with pillar-box red lanterns adorning the grounds, hopefully bringing a little taste of home for some of our overseas students at a time when being away from family can be particularly hard.
Clara and Alva (Year 12) are both from China and board at Wenona. Clara said, “For us, the Chinese New Year is like Christmas for Australians. People always start to prepare and get excited very early, including me! It's the "real" start of a new year. It's a tradition for people to have an enormous family dinner on New Year's Eve. And people go to visit family members and give children lucky money. It's a day for families to have a reunion.”
Alva said, “For me, Chinese New Year’s Eve means a time for all the family members to come together and share happiness and togetherness. In my family, my grandparents will get up really early and prepare a big dinner. It usually includes heaps of different types of food such as dumplings, noodles, vegetables and seafood. After dinner, we will watch the New Year gala together to finish up and count down to the New Year.”
Both students appreciated the efforts that our Boarding House staff had made to celebrate this special time of year. Last night they sat down with their fellow boarders to a sumptuous Chinese New Year’s Eve feast, which included Asian wafer crepes, barramundi spring rolls, char sui pork puffs, prawn gow gee, prawn and pork siu mai, and Asian steamed greens.
Earlier in the week, the Lion Dance ME company came to Wenona to teach Mr Mikkelsen’s Year 7 and 8 Chinese students how to play the drums and cymbals. It proved a very popular, albeit noisy, lesson.
Of course, no Chinese New Year celebration would be complete without the traditional lion dance. According to traditional Chinese beliefs, the lion is a symbol of courage and the lion dance is performed at the beginning of the Lunar Year to drive away evil spirits.
At lunchtime on Tuesday, the Undercroft reverberated with the sound of beating drums and clashing cymbals, as Mr Mikkelsen’s Year 7 and 8 Chinese students dressed up in colourful lion costumes and danced their way across the School, scaring away any monsters, ghosts and evil spirits, and bringing good fortune (we hope) to Wenona!
Given the importance of food in Chinese culture, it is not surprising that certain dishes play a major role in Chinese New Year celebrations. ‘Lucky’ foods are served through the two-week Chinese New Year celebration, but we are reliably informed by some of our boarders that, “The best food is the dumpling.”
Families traditionally spend New Year's Eve preparing the dumplings or ‘jiao zi’, and will eat them at midnight. It's a custom that dates back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Legend has it that the more dumplings you eat during the New Year celebration, the more money you will make in the new year.
Yesterday lunchtime, all the students who are studying Chinese, along with some of our international students, teachers from the Languages Department, Dr Scott and members of our Executive Team, tested out this theory by sampling an array of dumplings together. It’s safe to say that most attendees should be blessed by good fortune in 2018!
Students also gave a Chinese calligraphy presentation, which is the art of writing Chinese characters with a brush. And Molly in Year 9 read out a poem by Song Dynasty poet Wang Anshi called Yuan Ri or Chinese New Year's Day.