By Imelda Kokuhumbya Rweyemamu (Tanzania); Class of 2013 – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Despite the horrible weather this morning, the wet snow on the ground when I stepped out and the gloomy atmosphere, the Chinese New Year celebrations definitely cheered up my day. The official date of the celebrations worldwide was February 10th which marked the beginning of the year of the snake.
The event program started with exciting workshops like tea tasting, calligraphy and origami. I was particularly intrigued by the variety of tea they brought to the table: black tea, two different kinds of green tea and a flower tea which was highly recommended for its taste.
The performances commenced with a skit on the history of the celebrations and the significance of the year of the snake. In Chinese culture the snake is known for its intelligence so I guess we can all hope for intelligent decisions this year!
The celebrations are accompanied by a number of traditional practices, and incorporated in the skit were musical performances using traditional Chinese instruments and dances like sword and fan dancing. The experience of watching these dances and hearing the music was truly remarkable. The sword and fan dancers jumped at heights I was only used to seeing in Jackie Chan movies, viewing this live was mind blowing for me.
All of that was thrilling but perhaps what caught my attention during the skit was learning about why firecrackers were used for the celebrations. An ancient Chinese tale talks about a monster that existed in ancient times and raided Chinese communities after every 365 days leaving children dead and elders injured. This monster was feared by everyone in the community so no one dared confront it but one homeless beggar who was walking around in search of food. Moved by the horrors he heard he decided to hunt this monster. The beggar used firecrackers to frighten the monster away from the community restoring peace and happiness. And so on every New Year, the Chinese set firecrackers to keep the monster away. I guess everything does happen for as I would have never guessed this story.
Waiting for us in East Wing, to mark the end of the day, was a Cantonese buffet with a choice of sticky rice, a mix of vegetables, fried chicken and pork balls. The splashing mix of flavours in my mouth was simply divine. I had a lovely day learning about a culture different from mine and topping that up with an exploration of a scrumptious international cuisine.