Chinese residents of the UAE explain why this weekend's new year celebrations are so important to them
Chinese residents in the UAE ring in the Year of the Horse
ABU DHABI // Chinese New Year is a time for family, fire and wishes for prosperity, says Andrea Lixh.
Along with Chinese families and organisations across the UAE, Ms Lixh will this week be celebrating the Year of the Horse, which starts on January 31.
“It’s a big day. It’s maybe the biggest day of the year for Chinese, even bigger than January 1,” said Ms Lixh, 23, dining manager at Xiao Wei Yang hot pot restaurant in Abu Dhabi.
Now called the Spring Festival in China, the dates are based on the traditional lunar calendar, which is more than 4,000 years old.
The New Year is marked with public holidays in countries that have large Chinese-ancestral communities, including Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The celebrations differ from country to country and in China.
One of the main traditions is celebrating with a family dinner on New Year’s Eve. Many of the dishes served at the reunion dinner are puns or homophones for new year’s phrases, and words such as “prosperity”.
Ms Lixh, from the Inner Mongolia province in northern China, said most of her family members were celebrating the New Year in China.
“China is a very big country and the different places have different traditions,” she said. “But most of them eat the family dinner at 7pm, maybe, and then they watch TV because there is a show on TV for all of the Chinese.
“It’s the most important show of the year.”
Her brother has a talent for traditional paper cuttings and has made a piece to hang on the restaurant wall for the Year of the Horse, Ms Lixh said.
Another tradition is to light a fire at midnight to banish evil.
“Maybe it represents bad stuff of the previous year and welcoming the New Year,” Ms Lixh said.
Al Maryah Island is hosting what may be the largest event for Chinese New Year in Abu Dhabi.
“We have been experiencing a growing interest from the Chinese market,” said Luigi Romaniello, managing director of Rosewood Abu Dhabi hotel on the island.
“This month alone we hosted around 300 Chinese tourists, with 80 travellers choosing to specifically stay and celebrate the Chinese New Year with us.”
Al Maryah’s events started on Thursday evening and are to continue until Saturday.
Arts and crafts exhibitions, calligraphy workshops and kite painting will be set up on the promenade, with fireworks and Chinese musical performances on Friday night.
At Dragon Mart in Dubai there will be 20 live performances, including a dragon parade, magicians, a traditional tea ceremony, martial arts lessons and musical acts from Thursday to Saturday.
“More than 200,000 customers shop at Dragon Mart every weekend, and we expect to see even more visitors over the next few days as we and our 3,200 retailers welcome in the Year of the Horse,” said Peter Samuel, managing director of the mall’s operator Nakheel Retail.
Schools that teach Chinese languages also have planned events to mark the occasion.
Brighton Colleges in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain celebrated on January 23 in Abu Dhabi and January 26 in Al Ain, setting up food and culture stands for the pupils and holding a dragon parade.
Al Mushrif Chinese School in Abu Dhabi has also planned events, with the country’s ambassador planning to attend.
Mall of the Emirates has also planned entertainment including puppet performances, a national dress show and dancing from Friday to February 14.
Dragon dance performances are scheduled for Friday and the final day of the events, at 6pm and 8pm.
Xiao Wei Yang restaurant is giving out free dumplings, the most traditional Chinese dish, to each table for its New Year’s Eve dinner.
Ms Lixh said it was one of only a few traditional restaurants in Abu Dhabi, although it has three other branches in Dubai.
The New Year is a chance for the Chinese community to connect, she said.
“I hope all the Chinese here in the UAE and the staff at our restaurant will be better and better in the new year,” Ms Lixh said.
New Year’s celebrations traditionally continue for 15 days, culminating in the Lantern Festival holiday on February 14.