Newcastle societies celebrate Chinese New Year

Shalayna Sakaria reports on Blank Canvas and BAME Union's most recent collaborative event

Ani Paruchuri
25th February 2021
Image: Blank Canvas Society

February 12 th 2021 marked the start of the well-known and traditional
celebration of Chinese New Year. As the Year of the Ox begins, BAME
Union and Blank Canvas Society came together to host a celebration for

30 free craft packs consisting of an assortment of Chinese New Year-themed
crafts were distributed to students across Newcastle. Within the pack
students were given a paper lantern craft, Fortune Cookie, a stained-glass Ox-making kit, a red envelope and a Chinese knot decoration.

The Zoom call consisted of students conversing and crafting while traditional Chinese music played in the background; some made lanterns while others attempted traditional Chinese knots using tutorials provided.

Customarily, Chinese New Year is celebrated at the start of the lunar new year which is symbolised by the beginning of a new moon. Unlike the Gregorian calendar used in the UK, the date of this festival changes every year but will fall between 21 January to 20 February.

During this celebration in China, schools and businesses will close. It is a time that many celebrate with their families and so this year has been particularly tough due to the ongoing lockdown. BAME union and Blank Canvas worked hard to recreate some traditions that take place and provide a sense of community during the Zoom Craft call.

Image: Blank Canvas Society

One attendee, Willy, thanked the societies; he has been unable to return home for 18 months and said that the event "Made me so happy.”

People of all cultures were welcomed to the event to learn about
Chinese customs. A popular tradition is to clean one’s home in preparation for the celebrations. However, on the arrival of the New Year, no one in a household must pick up a broom as it is believed that good luck could be brushed out the door.

Additionally, adults’ gift red envelopes, known as hóngbāo, are often exchanged with money inside to represent good luck and prosperity. Parades in traditional clothing are held during the 16-day celebration and ongoing firework displays are held as it is believed that loud sounds and bright lights will scare away evil spirits. Finally, the celebration is concluded with a beautiful lantern festival. Lanterns are a key component as they symbolise the hope for a bright future and good fortune.

Gloria, who is not Chinese, noted that “It was relevant to the week's event and it was nice to learn something about another culture while having fun!”

Sophie commented: “Although my Chinese knot failed, I really the whole experience of celebrating this festival and I’m looking forward to hanging up my lantern!”

As the evening came to a close, students displayed their creations and took to social media to share them. A member concluded that it "wasn't the most conventional" celebration but was nonetheless "a very vibrant and joyful experience."

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