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Festival flares across globe

THROUGHOUT South-East Asia, preparations are under way for the biggest holiday of the year – the Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year –  which begins on February 3.

While in Cambodia the Khmer New Year is the most important and significant festival, marked by a public holiday, the Chinese New Year is one of three the Kingdom celebrates with all the fervour of its neighbouring countries.

The celebrations last for 15 days, and many of Chinese descent like to get together with family and friends, serve up a feast and wish each other prosperity for the year ahead.

Chinese communities in the region are ready to celebrate and party, from Malaysia and Singapore to Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, where the Chinese cultural influence remains strong.

The New Year celebrations start on the first day of the first moon according to the ancient lunar calendar and are considered the most important and elaborate of all the Chinese holidays.

The celebrations honour the successful completion of the old year while welcoming in the new, and it is a time for family, fellowship and tradition.

As well China’s geographic neighbours, many other cultures have been influenced by the New Year celebrations. Mongolians and Tibetans have some similar traditions, and the festival’s popularity has spread with the migration of Han Chinese populations.

Several Western countries such as Australia, the United States and Canada also celebrate Chinese New Year, particularly in cities where there are large populations of Chinese migrants.

As the influence of Chinese culture spreads across the world, the New Year celebrations have become a significant focal point for overseas Chinese communities and Chinatowns across the world.

Colourful costumes, elaborate floats and performances, fireworks, lion dances and hundred-foot long dragon puppets made from silk, bamboo and paper can be seen as the world celebrates this time-honoured tradition.

In Cambodia, the Chinese are an integral and growing part of the community and include many different ethno-linguistic groups. Most come from Teochew ethnicity.

Chinese people began to migrate to Cambodia as early as the third century, fleeing wars, political pressures and economic hardships.

The Chinese have integrated well into Cambodian society and their New Year celebration is one enjoyed by many in the Kingdom.

Cambodians like to join in celebrations by preparing food, gathering their families at home, shopping for clothes, cakes and decorations and hanging traditional New Year verses from their homes or offices.

While there is no official holiday for the Chinese New Year in  Cambodia, many get away to celebrate at the weekend, have fun and welcome in the New Year.

Chinese New Year celebrations throughout the region hold several things in common which are carryovers from Chinese tradition.

Firecrackers and the colour red
Red stands for life, energy and wealth and is important in Chinese legends, while people are encouraged to light firecrackers and wear red to prevent attacks from the man-eating beast known as Nian.

Lion dances
Throughout the first week of the New Year you can expect a lot of traditional Chinese dances with lion costumes and drums in streets and shopping malls.

Family reunions
Highways are jammed by ethnic Chinese going back to their home towns where generations gather together to feast.

Several traditional foods come out for the New Year celebrations, ranging from Peking duck and mandarin oranges  to sticky rice pudding, angelhair seaweed and dried oysters.

Many banquets serve steamed fish, which traditionally symbolise longevity and fortune, while lion’s head meatballs signify plentiful food for the year ahead.



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