Happy Chinese New Year to all!

I have a Chinese friend and I was alerted to the fact that it was Chinese New Year when I read her post on Facebook.

She was lamenting that her children, brought up in Australia, are not keen to celebrate the new year the Chinese way.

I wrote and consoled her that as they get older they will, I am sure, come to appreciate their Chinese heritage. But at this stage they are teenagers and too busy looking outwards and  having fun with their friends. I know how her children must feel.

I know this because as a teenager I wanted to forget that I had a Lebanese heritage. I just wanted it to go away! Being darker than the average person was a source of discomfort to me growing up. I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to fit in and jus be ‘ an Aussie’  like everyone else.

However, as I grew older, married and had my own children, I began to appreciate the rich heritage that I was born with. …thank goodness!  And as I have got older still and as Australia has become a nation of diverse cultures, I have begun to appreciate the richness of other cultures as well.

Yesterday I watched an interview with the indigenous woman Rosalie Kunoth-Monks who starred in the movie Jedda. People of my age would remember this movie coming out in the 1950s but for you younger folk it was the first movie starring two aboriginal people. It was considered a bit ‘out there’ in the fifties!  Rosalie, plucked from Central Australia, didn’t even want to play the part in the movie but she just ‘went along’ with it at the time.

She never acted again but after being an Anglican nun for 10 years  she is now, in her early seventies, a politician. Being an actress must have been good training for politics I think!  Anyway, the thing she wanted to say most of all was that we should allow people to have their own culture and world views and respect that

It is a timely reminder for all of us on this Chinese New Year to respect each other’s cultures.

In light of this, I did some research on the Chinese New Year so I could understand what it was all about.  Apparently 2012 is the Year of the Dragon and not just any Dragon but the black or water Dragon. I also read:

“The first day of the 2012 Chinese New Year is today (23rd January). This day is a new moon day, and is the first day of  the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar system. The exact new moon time is at 15:40 on 23-Jan-12 in China’s time zone.”  Ok, it is about the new moon and it does not happen at midnight!

So now that we know it is the Year of the Dragon, what is all this DRAGON business about?  I can remember as a child how story books told scary tales of dragons breathing fire. How frightening it all was but I loved every minute of it.  Still, I wondered if they existed in the same places as the fairies…at the bottom of the garden?  And what about Tooth Fairies and Santa and all those other ‘supposed’ beings? It was all a mystery to me and I believed the lot.

But I found out that to the Chinese: “a dragon is a legendary creature. All legendary stories about Chinese dragons are from the sky, which means heaven in China. The image of dragon is blurred, misty, mystic, occulted, noble and untouchable. For China, it is the symbol of power from heaven“.

‘Dragon’ is one of the most auspicious animals in China. We know this because they always come out at festivals snaking their way through processions with various people under them. This is called the Chinese Dragon Dance .

Actually, the Dragon Parade is a highlight of the festivities. The Dragon represents wisdom, power, and wealth and a very important aspect of Chinese Culture. It is also said that the Dragon Dance performed on New Year’s Day scares away the evil spirits and all the bad luck with them…

So today in honour of Chinese New Year, I have taken the time to learn a little about Chinese culture and by sharing it with you, I have passed it on. Yes, we must respect other people’s cultures.

To the Chinese people I know and to all, Happy Chinese New Year!

Let’s hope all of us this Chinese New Year, gain a lot of wisdom….not too much power….and hopefully an increase in wealth.