ISLAMABAD - Keeping the yearly tradition alive, General Manager Islamabad Marriott Hotel Mr Maurizio Romani invited the crème de la crème of the capital to celebrate Chinese New Year or Spring Festival as it is also called at Dynasty Restaurant at Marriott Islamabad. The Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, His Excellency Mr Yao Jing was the guest of honor on the occasion and the Deputy Chairman and CEO of the Hashoo Group Mr. Murtaza Hashwani played as host. The alley leading to the venue was decorated with red lanterns hanging in the hallway and standees highlighting stories of the Chinese nation.

Guests were in full attendance appreciating the décor and making a beeline to savor the customary Chinese delicacies prepared by the Executive Chinese Chef Mr Zubin in Chinese tradition, each year is named after one of the twelve animals which feature in the Chinese zodiac signs. Rat, Ox, Monkey and Tiger are part of the 12 animals.

The reason that New Year in Chinese culture falls at this time is that it marks the start of their Lunar New Year. This is different from the Gregorian calendar that has been adopted all over the world and always starts from 1st Jan.  Chinese New Year depends on the moon and therefore the date of Chinese New Year changes each year, but it will still fall sometime between 21st of January and 20th of February.

In 2019, 5th February was the beginning of a New Year of Zodiac Animal, and that is the reason that Chinese New Year is never on 1st Jan.

Unlike many countries of the world, China has fixed number of holidays to celebrate their New Year or Spring Festival. This year the public holidays, which started from 4th of Feb, will last till the 10th of Feb.

“It’s like celebrating Eid in your country. Most of the Chinese people working in Beijing leave the capital to go to their hometowns. On the first day of the New Year, the Chinese people visit their elders as a mark of respect, on the second day a reunion with friends and relatives and on the third day, the elders visit their younger relatives. Money is distributed amongst the family members and friends in red envelopes just like your Eid in Pakistani culture. A reunion dinner happens in the evening of the last day of the traditional year, “informed ambassador Jing while explaining the festivities. The traveling in China during Chinese New Year is considered the most significant movement in the world in a limited number of days.

Interesting before the festival begins, Chinese people clean their homes thoroughly to ward off evil spirits but on New Year’s Day they are not supposed to pick the broom in case you sweep the good luck for the New Year out of the door. Noodle soup and Dum sum are some very traditional dishes served during the feast as it is believed that it brings good luck for the year ahead.

On the sighting of the moon, fireworks are also set off, as it is thought that noise and lights will scare away any evils spirits for the coming months.  The festivities continue for all most two weeks finishing with a unique lantern festival on the year’s first full moon which signals the end of the New Year celebration period.

Like the zodiac lunar calendar, many Chinese families consider five Chinese elements in the likes of   Wood, Fire, Dirt, Metal, and Water as an essential part of their culture. They even believe that zodiac year’s animal can change how someone thinks and acts. Marriages, as well as childbirths in many families, are also planned to take into consideration the animal of the year.

The Chinese celebration is never complete without a Dragon or Lion dance as it plays a very pivotal role. Chinese people in the past thought that Chinese Dragons were kinds of god who had powers.Dragon dances in China happen throughout the year. Doing their best to bring China to Pakistan, Marriott too had arranged a Dragon dance. A colorful Dragon dancing on the beat of the drum was quite an amusement for the guest. Dum Sum, Prawn Tempura, Crum fried Muscles were some of the Chinese dishes on display. The special menu will be available to all diners for dinner for an entire week in celebration of the Chinese New Year.

–The writer is a freelance contributor.