Chinese New Year 2016 celebrated in Port Elizabeth - see VIDEO and PHOTOS

FEBRUARY 8, 2016

The Chinese community in Port Elizabeth, including other invited guests, gathered at a lavish event of colour, music, dance and food hosted by the Boardwalk International Convention Centre on Sunday night to celebrate the eve of the Chinese New Year. 

"Tonight's event is about the eve of the Chinese New Year, which falls on Monday, 8 February this year. There are twelve cycles of the Chinese New Year, which are all represented by animals - and 2016 is the year of the Monkey," Mike Timkoe, Chairperson of the Eastern Province Chinese Association, told RNews. 

He said the New Year is an important event on the Chinese calendar.  

"Traditionally, its a time in China and Taiwan - which they also call the Spring Festival, when all the migrant workers leave the cities and go to the rural areas to be with their families. It's a time for family get togethers and colourful festivities - including eating and drinking as well as dancing, before the workers go back to the cities."

The Chinese New Year is celebrated by all Chinese communities across the world and not just those in China.In South Africa,  there were festivities in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg. 

"So, we are blessed that we get to celebrate two Christmases," Timkoe laughed.

At the event, families and guests were dined on Chinese dishes and entertained with tradional Chinese dances.

"The dragon and lion dances that you witnessed accompanied by the banging of drums is all done to chase away evil in the New Year according to Chinese custom. We used to blow fireworks in the years gone by for the same purpose, but that is no longer allowed," explained Timkoe.

He said the dancers, who were not all Chinese, in a way signified tolerance among the races.

"The dragon and lion dances were actually done by a Kung-Fu school here in Port Elizabeth. As you can see, its different races participating here and there is beautiful harmony and respect for each other - which is what we want in the new South Africa."

There are two groups of Chinese nationals living in the Eastern Cape - the first one is made up of local Chinese, who are the descendants of the first Chinese migrants who arrived on South Africa's shores many years ago, while the second group are the new Chinese migrants, who arrived a few years ago owing to business relations between the governments of China and South Africa. In total, there are around 1 500 Chinese nationals in the province.

"And they are fitting in well in the local communities. That is because if you visit any part of the Eastern Cape, especially the Transkei, you will find them speaking Xhosa and Chinese - not English or Afrikaans. That is how they are adapting to living among South Africans," Timkoe described.

Guests at the event also found envlopes with R88 on their seats. This is because the word for "eight" sounds similar to the word which means "prosper" or "wealth" or "fortune" - making it a significant number during Chinese New Year celebrations. The number 8 is viewed as such an auspicious number that even being assigned a number with several eights is considered very lucky.

At a lucky draw, several guests walked away with sums from R1 880 to the grand prize of R8 880 - which was coicidentally won by the same lady, who won it during the Chinese New Year's event of 2015. Very lucky indeed!