Chinese expats tell us what to expect from the Year of the Horse
Benita Adesuyan meets some of the emirate’s Chinese residents to find out how they’ll be seeing in their new year.
On Friday January 31, Dubai’s approximately 150,000 residents from the Asian country will mark Chinese New Year across the city. It’s the start of the Year of the Horse, a period that Chinese astrologers predict will be a time of quick successes, adventure and high energy. If the astrologers are to be believed, we should anticipate extremes in stock markets, with price fluctuations and general chaos in all things financial.
An ancient system, the Chinese calendar is based on a lunisolar system, calculated by the phases of the Moon, so it is often referred to as the Lunar New Year. In Chinese culture, the horse is a very important symbol. The animal is considered to be able and intelligent and is regarded as a hero in China because important battles were won due to the animal’s power and strength.
Regardless of the not-so-optimistic predictions of the astrologers, the thousands of Chinese people living and working in Dubai still plan to get together with their friends and loved ones to celebrate the occasion. One such resident, Diana Qi Xiaoyu, has been living in Dubai for more than 20 years and is founder of Qi Chinese, a company that provides translation services and business consultancy.
‘Chinese New Year in Dubai is very different to China – obviously we don’t have 15 days of celebration here, but I still look forward to it,’ she says. Xiaoyu also runs the Dubai China Night Meetup and is in touch with the community in the city. ‘New Year is still a good time to reflect on the past and bring friends and family together to eat and celebrate.
‘Traditionally, we decorate our homes and have fireworks, but here festivities will be smaller. Everyone, Chinese or not, can get involved with celebrations whether it’s by joining a Meetup group or coming for dinner.’
Traditionally Chinese New Year’s Day is an occasion for families to gather to celebrate the annual reunion dinner and people who work in cities travel home to be with their loved ones. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red coloured decorations, other festivities include giving money in red paper envelopes and fireworks.
Although celebrations will not be as elaborate in Dubai as they are in China and other South East Asian countries such as Indonesia, and Singapore, where the New Year is ushered in with a 15-day holiday, the community here still get together to celebrate the date.
Andy Tohchye Foing, Head Chef at Hakkasan, is from Malaysia and has been living in Dubai for two years and he hopes to spend some time with colleagues after work. ‘I’ll be working in the restaurant during New Year so I won’t be celebrating but I hope to have a meal with the team after duties. At New Year in Malaysia we traditionally make a dish called Yee Sang, which is like a salad of fish and vegetables that is placed in the middle of the table. It’s then tossed with chopsticks, the tradition states that the higher the salad is tossed, the more luck you have for the year.’
Both Diana and Andy will be keeping the traditions alive in the city and agree that it’s an event for people of all nationalities. ‘It’s an open door,’ says Diana. ‘I meet many people who are interested in Chinese culture, or have visited China and Asia, and new year is the perfect time to find out a lot more about the culture – it’s an open invitation to wish everyone the best for the year ahead.’
So why not head out and get involved? There’s a deluge of exciting cuisine out there leading up to and on the day, care of the city’s many restaurants peddling the very best fare the country has to offer. And it’s great to see that far from home, the Chinese traditions for new year are being kept alive in the community.
Xin Nian Hao (Happy New Year)!
Get involved in Chinese New year
Dim Sum Happy Hour Unlimited Chinese dim sum at Blue Jade, all crafted by chef Ta Van. Dhs150, daily until January 31, 5pm-7pm. Blue Jade at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai Marina. www.ritzcarlton.com/dubai (04 318 6150).
East China State Circus The troupe is in town. Get to see acrobatics in a dizzying spectacle of traditional and contemporary performance. Dhs170. Until February 1. Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6546).
Dinner and gifts at Saffron, Atlantis Enjoy a Chinese New Year-themed buffet dinner at Saffron and receive a humbau Chinese gift, including fortune cookies, mandarin and chocolate coins. Dhs248. Until January 31. Saffron Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah www.atlantisthepalm.com (04 426 0000).