On Friday January 31st the Chinese New Year celebrations begin in Amsterdam! Expect to see a lot of fireworks and dragons on the street. In Amsterdam the majority of the festivities are celebrated around the Nieuwmarkt and Zeedijk area. This Chinese New Year brings in the Year of the Horse.
Chinese New Year events in Amsterdam!
Running from Friday 31st January until Sunday 2nd February, the key place to check out is Fo Guang Shan, the Buddhist temple located at Zeedijk 106-118. The New Years celebrations begin from Fo Guang Shan on Saturday 1st February at 1pm. The Fo Guang Shan temple also offers tours in Dutch and English, and provides more information on Buddhism. More information the Buddhist temple on Zeedijk can be found on their website. The parade will then move onto Geldersekade, and will showcase the traditional lion and dragon dances. The dragon dance is believed to bring good luck in Chinese culture. The lion dance is about bringing good luck, but also demonstrating the martial arts and dance skills of the dancers. Traditionally the ‘lions’ would battle each other using stylised and artistic martial arts moves. The lion dance is often mistaken for the dragon dance. If you want to be able to tell the difference between the two; the lion only needs two dancers, whereas the dragon requires many people.
If you have just recovered from the fireworks of New Years in Amsterdam, be prepared as there will be more fireworks with the Chinese New Year procession!
It is also worthwhile visiting the De Nieuwe Kerk on the weekend of 31st January to 2nd February. As part of the Ming Dynasty exhibition, there are special events planned for the Chinese New Years celebrations. On the Friday it will be possible to listen to listen to Chinese folk music, attend a lecture, or explore exhibitions. On the Saturday and Sunday at 1pm there will also be free dim sums available.
Traditional Chinese New Year
The traditional Chinese celebration is to gather for a family dinner, a reunion. Food is an important element of the Chinese New Year, with certain foods encouraging happiness, prosperity or good luck. A key theme of the family gathering is to also join together and clean the house thoroughly. This is believed to get rid of any ill fortune, and to clean the house to invite in good fortune in the New Year.
Red is an important colour in Chinese New Year celebrations, as it is believed to scare away evil spirits and bad fortune. This is also linked to the Red Envelopes tradition which may be seen during celebrations in Amsterdam. This tradition involves money being given in red envelopes by married couples or elderly people to young adults. Children would not often receive these. The money in these envelopes must all be even numbers, as it is considered good luck. Usually this money would all be in newly printed bills, as everything about Chinese New Year is expected to be new in order to bring in good luck and fortune.
You are what you eat
Some of the foods believed to bring good luck include Fish and Chicken, which are believed to be symbols of prosperity. Uncut noodles are also seen as symbols of longevity. Lettuce is also believed to be a symbol of prosperity. Part of the lion dance normally involves green lettuce and a red envelope being left out the front of shops by the owners. As part of the act the lion would appear to eat the green lettuce and then spit it out in a nice arrangement, which is believed to bring good luck and fortune. The lion would then take the red envelope with money inside as a reward for bringing good fortune.
If you are feeling game, then feel free to try a Moon Cake! These are a pastry with a thick filling inside made from red bean or lotus seed paste, and may have yolks from salted duck eggs. I have been informed that they are ‘gross’. However in China they are viewed as a delicacy, and it is customary for these to be presented to clients or relatives as a present.
While it seems like several elements of the holiday are linked to superstitions, considering China’s current economic strength and dominance as a world power, maybe we could all benefit from being a bit more superstitious.
Feel free to leave comments below about your plans for Chinese New Years, what you will be doing or eating, or experiences you have had. Gong Xi Fa Cai! (meaning Happy New Year)