Nan Hua Temple's Chinese New Year Explained
So many people in Jozi like to join in on the festivities to celebrate the Chinese New Year, but what does it all mean? Dominique attends the event at Bronkhorstspruit's Nan Hua Temple and explains ...
The Start of the Chinese Lunar Year is marked by the Spring Festival: a 15-day celebration full of rich customs and symbolism. Every year, hundreds of people flock to the Buddhist temple in Bronkhorstspruit for the festivities.
Chinese New Year starts with a bang; a BIG one! Hundreds of firecrackers are lit to frighten off the Nian, a monster that threatens to appear on New Year's Eve to terrorise villagers.
"The burning of firecrackers also signifies a joyful time of year and has become an integral aspect of Chinese New Year celebrations" (Wikipedia)
The Dragon dance follows to bring good luck for the New Year.
"Being part of the Dragon dance is exhausting, with the sun on you the whole time. Still, it's a great experience and a privilege!" (Robert Lin, performed Dragon dance in 2012)
The length of the Dragon can be anything from 25m upwards; the longer it is, the more luck it brings.
Drums and cymbals clash and clang making a glorious noise, providing rhythms for the twisting, turning dragon.
The Lion Dance follows the dragon to chase away the Nian. The Lion Dance is an energetic display as the Lions playfully leap about. Martial arts schools have an entire style dedicated to The Lion Dance and train all year round to strut their stuff at the Spring festival.
Candy, so much candy! Flea market style stalls provide access to a host of Asian confectionaries, guaranteed to get you on the ultimate sugar high.
The New Year's colours of red and gold are worn for luck and wealth. Legend has it that the Nian was once frightened away by a small child wearing red and ever since, the colour has been used in New Year festivities.
A wise man hands out red envelopes or "packets", known as 'hóngbao' (??) in Mandarin. The envelopes contain coins or sweets for good luck and fortune.
It is believed that if you sleep with the red envelope under your pillow for seven nights before opening it, you will have good luck.
Bubble tea, my personal favourite. There's nothing quite like seeing a first-timer's face when they first encounter this Taiwanese beverage. A tea-based drink with tapioca balls inside, definitely an interesting experience.
Ask any Asian and they'll tell you New Year is about food - masses of it! The festivities provide interesting treats like the water chestnut desserts above. Food at the temple is strictly vegetarian.
I encountered a group from the local Harley Davidson chapter who made a breakfast run to the temple - a wonderfully diverse crowd of celebrants every year.
2013 is the year of the water snake. "Unwavering advancement despite life's twists and turns leads to the attainment of happiness and wisdom". (Venerable Master Hsing Yun)
Making an offering to the wishing tree.
Incense fills the temple to pray for good luck and is offered in remembrance of those who have passed.
Masses of shoes fill the entranceway as visitors observe the tradition of removing shoes before entering the temple.
Visitors making offerings at the shrine
Incense and candy offerings are made.
The festivities at the temple incorporate a range of cultural activities from martial arts displays to a local Bollywood dances.
Greet the New Year and encounter happiness.
Where? Nan Hua Temple, Bronkhorstspruit, Gauteng
by Dominique Baxewanos