While the city gears up to celebrate 2013, for the Chinese citizens living in Mumbai, the celebrations will begin a month later, when the Chinese Year of the Snake starts on February 10. And since the preceding year is the Year of The Dragon, the real celebration will start a day early on February 9, says Xinhua correspondent Michael Wang, based in Mumbai.
“The dragon is a symbol of prosperity and hence the last day is going to be full of celebrations, especially because the Year of the Snake calls for more discipline and a need to stay alert. Chinese people will be more cautious about any business deals,” he adds.
Wang says that food is an integral part of the New Year, and preparations start in advance. “The commercialisation of China has shortened the celebrations from 15 to seven days, and three days in the urban areas, but the Reunion Dinner remains very important. You can see Chinese workers living in hundreds in the rural areas during that time. It’s a mad rush,” he says, adding, “While in Northern China, the year is welcomed with dumplings called Jiaozi, in the South of China, people usually make a glutinous New Year cake called Niangao. People also remember their ancestors by lighting candles,” he says.
People decorate their houses with red lanterns and couplets and colourful statues of the snake. He says, “In the New Year, married elders present a red envelope with money and gifts to unmarried ones and the youngsters.”
But one of the most important days of the Year of the Snake, says Wang, will be the Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao or Shangyuan Festival), which falls on the fifteenth Day. It also marks the closure of the celebrations. “People walk the streets carrying lanterns. It’s a way to guide wayward sprits home,” he adds.