Ricochet News

2018 Chinese New Year celebrated in Port Elizabeth

Feb 19, 2018
2018 Chinese New Year celebrated in Port Elizabeth

A change of venue this year did not dampen the mood as the Chinese community in the Eastern Cape gathered at the Yin Pin Restaurant, which is located at the Boardwalk Hotel and Casino complex, in Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth, to celebrate the Chinese New Year on Saturday.

Previous celebrations were held at the Boardwalk Hotel’s International Conference Centre (ICC).

It was a night of good entertainment, laughter and great food for the Chinese and other invited guests.

“Tonight's event is about the Chinese New Year, which is an important holiday for the Chinese and actually fell on Friday this year. Across the world and in China, it is called the Spring Festival and often sees workers leaving the cities to go and spend around 15 days with their families in the rural areas before returning to work,” Mike Timkoe, Chairperson of the Eastern Province Chinese Association, explained to RNEWS.

“There are twelve cycles of the Chinese lunar calendar, which are all represented by animals and celebrated at different days in February depending on which day the lunar New Year begins.

“2018 is the year of the dog. The symbolism there is that the dog is very loyal, honest and very committed – he looks after his owner. It is an exciting time now, not just for the Chinses but for everyone in South Africa.”

Local residents, who were visiting the Boardwalk ended up witnessing a dragon and lion dance by dancers from a local Chinese Kung-Fu school.

"The dragon and lion dances that you witnessed accompanied by the banging of drums and all is 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 event was also a chance for the Chinese community, which is small, to come together.

“The Chinese community in Nelson Mandela Bay is very small – it’s less 1 000 people. The number goes up and down as we have a lot of people, who leave the Bay to go and work in other cities and a lot of them go abroad,” Timkoe described.

“What we often have are new immigrants from China, Taiwan and Singapore, who come to the country to open up business – most Chinses come here to start business.”

He added that observing traditions such as the Spring Festival ensured that they keep their connection to their roots alive.

“Most us still have direct links with China – so, we also travel there regularly and our families come here to visit. The world has become so small – it’s not before when we could not get there before because of the laws then,” he said.

Like many South Africans, Timkoe said that the Chinese community was excited about the New Year.

“We are excited about 2018. We have a positive outlook because of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered by our new President, Cyril Ramaphosa, and also the fact that the Rand is strengthening. So, everything is conducive to a good year that is coming and obviously, we must all work as one and bear the fruits of this as we go along,” he explained.

Timkoe said that the Chinese community is very much integrated in South Africa as could be seen by the number of non-Chinese guests at the lavish event.

“I was born in South Africa, from parents that came from China. And like many local Chinese, identify myself more as South African than Chinese.

“In fact, many of us born here speak better English and Afrikaans than we do the Chinese dialects. So, we are fully integrated in the greater community,” he said.

“In that sense, we also do a lot of charity work – not only for the Chinese, but everybody. We get involved as much as we can.”

Guests at the event also found envelopes with R88 on their seats.

“The symbolism there is what we call the red packet. For the Chinese the colour red is very lucky and you will see in every packet is R88; that is because the number is eight is a very lucky number,” said Timkoe, adding that this is because the word for ‘eight’ in Chinese sounds similar to the word, which means ‘prosper’ or ‘wealth’ or ‘fortune’ - making it a significant number during Chinese New Year celebrations.

“You have seen we have a lucky draw happening – everything is in 8’s as we try to keep true to that tradition.”

In the lucky draw, guests stood a chance to win prizes ranging from plasma TV’s, to cash, Johnnie Walker Blue Label Whisky and Samsung Galaxy tabs.

The biggest jackpot probably went a woman, who won R8 888 – very lucky indeed.