Last February, Maria Johns and Peony Brown went to visit the James Brown Memorial Trust Facility, Kalyra Belair Aged Care. The purpose of the visit was to conduct a cultural workshop for the residents about Chinese New Year and Chinese culture. MAC staff visiting the facility has become an annual request and tradition.

Maria wished the residents Kung Hei Fat Choi (prosperity and wealth), a traditional greeting for Chinese New Year and highlighted MAC’s multicultural library (which offers free membership) and mobile library service. Residents were pleased to hear that they do not have to come to MAC to join the library, to loan materials or to return them. They enjoyed the resources and materials on site.

Peony described and presented examples of some of the many Chinese New Year traditions.

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festival in Chinese culture, with the celebration lasting 15 days. This year, Chinese New Year fell on 31 January, 2014, which is the Year of Horse, and lasted until 18 February, 2015.

China is a big country, customs and traditions to celebrate the Chinese New Year vary widely. Generally before the New Year, people buy presents, food, clothes, decorate their homes. It is the tradition that families thoroughly clean the house to sweep away any bad-fortune and prepare to welcome good luck in the New Year. The New Year Eve feast is most important. Everyone has to go home to have dinner with family. People will stay up late till New Year’s Day. In the morning, children greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year. They receive red packets containing money: lucky money. Most families go out to do New Year visits to extended families, neighbours, relatives and friends. The Chinese New Year visit is a way to forget all grudges, and wish peace and happiness for everyone. During the 15 day celebration period, martial art schools organise lion dances to visit houses, businesses and communities. It is believed the lion dance brings good luck.

Residents were keen to learn about the 12 animal year cycle; rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig and were delighted to hear the story about how which animal was chosen and the order.

Long, long time ago, the Chinese god decided to have 12 animals represent 12 years in the cycle. All the animals were excited. They all wanted to be a representative of a year. They were in a competition to be chosen.

 

The competition was that they needed to line up along the bank of a river and race across to the opposite shore. The first 12 animals to finish the race in sequence would be included in the cycle of the 12 years.

 

The rat and cat were good friends and they decided to enter the competition. However, the cat did not swim and the river was too rough for the rat.

 

At that time the ox was worried about his poor eyesight. So the rat made a plan. The plan was that the ox would carry the rat and the cat on his back. The cat and the rat would guide the ox in the race.

 

The race started. The ox was leading the race.

By half way across the river the ox did not know the rat had shoved the cat into the river.

When the ox had nearly reached the shore the rat did a long jump and finished the race first, followed by the ox. Then, the tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and the pig came in twelfth place as the last year in the cycle.

 

Finally the cat managed to come to the shore but too late to get in the calendar.

 

This is the reason that cat has been the enemy of the rat forever.

 

Learning about Chinese New Year, practising to say Kung Hei Fat Choi, listening to stories about Chinese culture, sharing some cultural resources and traditions were the highlights of a few enjoyable hours for residents and staff.

We will do it all again next year.

 

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