“The Dublin Chinese New Year Festival has become a popular annual event celebrating Dublin´s ethnic and cultural diversity. In the Chinese zodiac, this is the year of the Dog, which symbolizes courage and loyalty” H.E. Yue Xiaoyong, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Ireland.
Dogs are taking over Dublin for the Chinese New Year of the dog, bursting into the city with different activities, traditions and cultural exchange along the 27 venues of the festival. This 15 days celebration is covering the city in red colour, wishing everybody good luck and a great year.
The festival, as the Chinese Lunar New Year begins on February 16th and continues until March 4th 2018, where more than 10,000 people are expected to attend the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival, hoping to have a good time and to satisfy their curiosity with the deeper meaning of this year’s celebration.
What does it mean to be on the year of the dog? According to the Chinese zodiac, people born in this year are 24, 36, 48 or 60 years old. They are thought to be active, loyal, and vigilant. The element earth enriches the dog´s character and adds needed stability; it gives them a sense of right and wrong in long and faithful relationships.
“I am dog, so I volunteer hoping to spread the Chinese culture to all the international people living in Dublin” said Chin Chin, one of the festival´s volunteer who has been away from home for 7 years and believes in the power of traditions to bring the family closer.
As Chin Chin mentions, to understand the importance of the dog to this Chinese lunar year, a short explanation of Sheng Xiao, the Asian Lunar Calendar is needed.
The Asian Lunar Calendar known also as the Traditional Calendar consists of a 12 year cycle rather than months, with each year corresponding to one of the 12 animals; rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. How where the 12 animals chosen? There is an old myth explained with an old tale called The Great Race.
A long time ago, the Jade Emperor decreed a great race to decide the years on the calendar. Each year would be named in the order of the animal’s place in the race. The results of the race were to be decided with a swim across the river. The first winner was the Rat, who asked the Ox for a ride on his back, but as soon as Ox neared the other side of the river, Rat jumped ahead of him, claiming first place for himself.
The disappointed Ox took second place, followed by the powerful Tiger, then the Rabbit who had crossed the river by leaping from stone to stone. The Dragon appeared next, becoming fifth in the race because he was helping others.
The mighty Horse got there fast and with a secret passenger attached to him: Snake, which slithered ahead of Horse across the finish line. Not long after, Sheep, Monkey, and Rooster came to the shore helping each other to cross.
Dog bounded into eleventh place, stopping now and then to play in the water. Lastly, a little Pig scurried across the finish line. Pig stopped for a feast and then continued the race becoming the twelfth animal of the zodiac cycle. This ancient myth provokes the imagination helping the Chinese people piece together certain mysteries of life.
Each zodiac sign is also associated with five Taoist elements: metal, wool, water, fire, and earth. Every element has interrelations among each other, believed to be the common law of motions and changes of creatures in the universe. A person’s characteristics are decided by their birth year´s zodiac animal, sign and element. This is the 11th year of the cycle, the year of the metal dog.
Chinese people believe firmly in the Lunar Calendar, it governs traditional activities in China. Their belief is so strong that they even take to account who to marry depending on his or her zodiac sign and element, the year when their babies are to be born, holidays, or even the correct day to make an investment.
There are several Chinese New Year traditions to take into account that have passed true for thousands of generations and which might be missing at the Dublin festival, such as:
- Hóng bāo or the red envelope with money, which the adults give to the kids for good luck.
- Chun Lián or spring festival couplets are poetry lines written on a red paper wishing good luck as “Fortune is arriving” and are placed on the front doors.
- Yānhuā or fireworks are traditionally displayed in several countries around the world, the fireworks are meant to scare away evil spirits and daemons.
There might not be fireworks this year, but there are a lot of different daily activities for all the family at the Chinese Festival involving art expressions connecting the attendants to the Chinese culture. The activities are musical performances, dancing, handcrafting, food tasting, and several workshops around the city.
If you are looking for a weekend activity to do with your kids, this is a good idea to learn something new, to experience something different with more families, and connect with the Chinese culture and community.
On his first year at the festival Fernando mentioned “My kids are having a blast drawing and watching the little girls dancing, and as for me, I think the decoration and the food is pretty good” as Fernando´s family, there are more assistants who seem to like the festival and are willing to participate in more activities.
Humans create different kind of events worldwide to express harmoniously, and to unite different type of cultures in order to understand each other.
According to the Traditional Calendar, zodiac dogs are born in 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018. They are always ready to help others and to see the best in every people; these characteristics will define a person´s action throughout its life, becoming important values to learn from zodiac dogs this year.
There are many traditions in China, and not all of them are known internationally unless an important event like the Chinese New Year happens, and Dublin as an International city understands the value of this type of events not only to its Chinese citizens, but to all the immigrants living in Ireland who are yearning for their countries and families in such important dates of the year.