Lion dances, street parades and traditional dancing will flood Main Street in early February in celebration of the Chinese New Year, the year of the rooster.

The Gibraltar Chinese Association will organise the event that strives to play an active role in relations between Gibraltar and China, fostering understanding and friendship.

“It organises events in Gibraltar during the year which reflect important festivals in the Chinese calendar,” a spokesman for the association said. “Reflecting the links of Gibraltar with the United Kingdom, the association also receives strong support from the Chinese embassy in the UK.”

The representative said that one of the most interesting aspects of Gibraltar is its people, who comprise a melting pot of cultures and spoke of the Chinese becoming more prominent on the Rock.

“Its recent growth is seen in an increasing number of events organised by the Chinese community including, but not limited to, Chinese New Year,” the spokesman said. “It is fitting that Gibraltar joins in these celebrations. One in every six people in the world does so, and not just in China. The New Year in Korea and in Vietnam follows the Chinese calendar, and the traditional Japanese New Year does likewise.”

The spokesman said that there is a Chinese community in most countries in the world with London claiming the largest Chinese new year celebration outside Asia. It is also one of the oldest festivals in the world. Exactly how far back it goes is unclear as its origins are prehistoric.

Although the Chinese calendar does not traditionally use continuously numbered years, New Year is often numbered from the reign of the mythical Yellow Emperor in the third millennium BC. The exact date varies between sources, but by some accounts, we are now living in year 4653.

“Customs vary in different parts of the world, but it is a refreshing fact that many customs throughout the world have a common root, often linked to appreciating what we have, with family and those close to us, and a desire for peace and well-being,” the spokesman said. “Chinese New Year is no different, the main reasons for the festival being to celebrate a year of hard work, have a good rest and relax with family, and importantly, to wish for a lucky and prosperous coming year.”

With a festival that goes back so far, it is not surprising that there are innumerable legends and stories explaining the Chinese New Year festival, and many people are familiar with some of these, including the Chinese zodiac.

“The Chinese calendar is made up of a cycle of twelve years, each of them being named after an animal. In number, this is rather like the Western zodiac,” the spokesman said. “However, it runs through a series of years, not months, people born during a particular animal’s year are said to inherit distinctive characteristics of that animal. The signs repeat every 12 years.”

words | Richard Bowry, Hassans

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