Spring Festival at The Linden Centre
A Story About “Nian”:
Long ago, the world was not a safe place; monsters dominated the world. There was one horrifying monster that came out on the same day each year to eat people. This monster was named Nian, and the people marked the end of a year by his visits to the human civilization. That is where the Chinese word for year came from.
This monster was the most feared by the people because every time it came out, whole villages would be destroyed at a time. So, every time the monster came, people would huddle together in their homes and stay up all night, wanting not to be eaten. This happened for many years until a wise man thought up a plan to scare the monster away.
This man proposed that the people should light bamboo. The bamboo would crack and make a lot of noise, possibly scaring the monster away. The villagers thought this was a very good idea and started to light the bamboo. The noise was tremendous. The monster was scared by the loud noise and ran back to its cave without eating any people.
The next morning, everyone was present. They were all elated. The people congratulated each other for executing the plan effectively. So, from then on, people stayed up late, lit firecrackers (to simulate the lighting of the bamboo), and congratulated each other when the new year came.
This is a well-known story among China, The origin of the Chinese New Year itself is centuries old, it can be traced back to Xia Dynasty, which is around 4,000 years ago.
On Chinese new year’s eve, guests from all over the world came to the Centre with their whole family, as young as a 1 year old baby all the way to an over 70 years old grandpa, here in the centre they found reunion. Put on red couplets, worship ancestors, play fireworks, have family dinner, nian story telling, etc.
The best part was that guests from the northeast part of China made 66 lucky dumplings for us.
First day of Chinese New Year, we had traditional Bai breakfast which is three course tea and glutinous rice balls. For lunch we had vegetarian noodles which was cooked with soymilk, broad beans and fresh green vegetables. To be honest, it was so good that I could not wait to get a third bowl.
Second day of Chinese New Year, a huge contingent of dragon dancing group came to the Linden Centre, what impressed me the most was all the dragon dancers were all women, it turns out that women here in Dali have higher position than men unlike other places of China. The dragon brought a lot happiness and propitiousness to the Centre.
Third day of Chinese New Year, we went to a local God temple by the lake with our guests, there was a big ceremony that worshiping the local God, this event last from 9 am till lunch time.
Either it is because the remote location, the minority, or the religion, all the tradition here are well preserved. Other than most other place of China, this special area and Linden Centre are still tied up with the spirit of China.
Go home for Spring Festival is the tradition of the whole country. But this time I am far away from my family, every once a while I would be missing my parents and relatives, but there is no doubt that this new year is the most special one I have ever experienced, and I will always treasure the memories I have garnered here.
Thank you very much to my colleagues, our guests and all the villagers in Xizhou!