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Chinese new year celebration in Kolkata


C S BHATTACHARJEE | Kolkata, January 23, 2012 15:51
Tags : Chinese New year | Kolkata |

I am sitting in Beijing and heard the Kali Temple nearby is illuminated with Chinese lanterns as this is the Chinese New Year eve! I was amazed to see that the Chinese, divided between Buddhist and Roman Catholic in equal proportion, have not left even the Maha Kali from their grand New year eve celebration.

Surprised? This Beijing is not in China, but the Bar-cum-Restaurant in the China town of Kolkata, earlier infamous for the cluster of tanneries and its dingy lanes which has now been shifted by the order of Supreme Court. The New Year festival started on January 15 with the Indian Chinese Association’s Lion Dance Show at Teritti Bazar.

The China town of Kolkata got entirely a new look with colourful banners flying on the streets welcoming the New Year. All the Chinese people were wishing each other in Cantonese’ Hakka language. Chinese houses are decorated with paper-made Chinese lanterns with coloured bulbs inside, big thick candles and mighty incense sticks, which will continue to burn for 24 hours. But, the grandeur of New Year might leave the Mughals envious.

Dressed in new cloths, everyone assembles in the Association Hall. Youths display their arts of Dragon and Lion dances for which the dresses need to be imported from China. As the clock touches mid night, they reach the roof top of Pei May school to pray to Chhoi Shin (God of Wealth) and Shun Tay (God of Power). Families welcome the New Year with firecrackers and jubilation. The dance troops roam from house to house wishing best wishes. We return best wishes with Fung Pao (red Packet) which usually contain sweets but they pack it with money as these young boys and girls spend huge sum to import dresses and buying drums for this celebration.

About 3000 people of Chinese origin live in Teritti Bazar area near Writers’ Buildings and Tangra of Kolkata, which was nearly 30,000 in late 40s. Most of us are from canton and adjoining areas. We fled away from China as World War II broke out. As Japanese aggression starts, many of us somehow reached Kolkata and many others scattered all over the globe. However, that’s history. We are Indian by heart, Chinese by origin”, said Monica Liu, the owner of Beijing Restaurant.

Most of them have started moving out to USA, Sweden, Canada, Australia and to many other countries in search of jobs or starting their own business but will never forget Kolkata. In fact, they always miss Kolkata, particularly during our New Year. Many of them return during this time, may be for only 10 days, to enjoy New Year with their friends and relatives in Kolkata.”she added. Richard Chu is one such Indian of Chinese origin who returned couple of days back celebrate New Year with his relatives to Kolkata from Canada.

Monica’s husband Liu Kuo Chao is the President of the Chinese Welfare Association and also the Chief of the Pei May High School.He has taken the lead of organizing this year’s celebration. “According to Chinese zodiac, this is the year of Dragon. Dragon is regarded as the most auspicious motif among Chinese and we believe, this would be the most prosperous and advancing year for us”, Monica said.

Monica’s nephew, niece and other relatives arrived at her house all the way from Sweden, America and also from Shillong in Arunachal Pradesh. "Obviously, my heart wants to know the menu for the first lunch of the New Year, a Dragon Year. That would be grand but vegetarian lunch," Monica said. Chinese are fond of non-veg. and offer fish, chicken and whiskey to our God of Heaven on the New Year morning along with Tea, biscuits, sweets, decorated golden and silver papers. But, we do keep vegetarian as well as many poor Chinese would be taking vegetarian lunch. We respect them by that lunch.” she added.

On 25 and 26 January, there will be Live concert by Francis Lepcha at Pei May school which will entertain all thr youths. An old Chinese journalist still ventures against all odds to publish the only Chinese newspaper ‘Overseas Chinese Commerce of India’ in Chinese scripts. “Very little Chinese are here can read this as they are unfamiliar with the Hakka scripts”, said Monica. However, some teen age students have recently selected Chinese as their second language in La Mart and few other schools but many schools don't have a faculty. The Association have arranged coaching for these students.

To add colour to the fest, Chinese Council in Kolkata have given the Chinese community a great dinner prior to New Year. The invitation was for more than 100 selected families. “Chinese of Kolkata and all those who arrived from abroad wanted to celebrate the festive eve with the Chinese Council", added Mrs. Liu.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017