CHINESE New Year got off to a colourful start yesterday in Cardiff with children’s activities to welcome in the year of the sheep.
The Conficius Institute, which was set up in association with Cardiff University and offers language courses and cultural activities, organised the event at The Red Dragon Centre in Cardiff Bay.
The institute offered four types of activities which all represent part of Chinese tradition. Children made their way around the different activities and once they had received all the stickers to show they had completed each task, they were awarded with a Chinese mask similar to those used at the Beijing opera.
Qi Wu, 36, who works with Conficius Institute said: “We chose to do paper cuttings, calligraphy, language sessions and mask painting.
“The paper cutting is an important part of the festivities because people in China cut out different shapes and stick them in windows or hang them in their houses to decorate for New Year.”
The Chinese calendar does not refer to years with numbers but refers to the animal. “We have an animal for each year. We don’t say 2015, 2016 and so on. “But there are only 12 animals so we use Chinese characters to differentiate between each year that animal has represented in the past,” Qi said.
This year we have heard many variations, with people referring to 2015 as the year of the sheep and goat. “All these animals have one general name in Chinese and so the year of the sheep, goat, lamb or ram are all correct,” she added.The language sessions allowed children to find out the animal of their birth year, pronounce it and see how it is written in mandarin Chinese.
Emma Smith, 40, from Penarth, said: “My three children have been talking about the Chinese New Year at school and nursery and it’s great to come here so they can see what they have learned. It’s educational and fun and the kids are having a great time. There’s a lovely atmosphere here.”The calligraphy writing allowed children to trace over Chinese symbols using a special brush pen and have their names written in the Chinese alphabet characters.
“My daughter loved the calligraphy,” explained Lowri Hogg, 35, from Mold. “The activities here are great, especially for children aged around five years. They discover so much and get to learn about another culture in a fun way.”Qi explained the Chinese tradition is for families to come together to enjoy the festivities around a large feast of special dishes including fish and dumplings. “Young people like to sing karaoke and the older members of the family often play a card game called Mahjong,” she explained. “Nowadays many people travel during the New Year because a lot of people have a long holiday of about 15 days.”
And according to Qi, babies born during this calendar year will have a gentle nature although, at times, stubborn and will have plenty of good luck. “It is considered a lucky animal so it’s a good year to be born.”