Asian communities around the world, including those in Australia, celebrate the Lunar New Year this weekend and the start of the Year of the Snake.
In the Illawarra, festivities will centre on the Nan Tien Temple, where there will be activities on Saturday for New Year’s Eve and on Sunday for the first day of the year. There will be lion dancing and drumming displays on both days, along with a vegetarian food fair.
At midnight on Saturday the Bell of Peace will be tolled to welcome in the new year.
Chao Zhong, public officer Wollongong Chinese Students and Scholars Association, says the new year is one of the most important festivals on the Chinese calendar.
‘‘It is a festival for uniting family members, so most Chinese people go back to their home town and all the family members get together,’’ Zhong says.
He added that many Chinese students studying in Wollongong had already returned to China to be with their families for the festival.
In the Chinese calendar, the new year begins on the second new moon after the northern hemisphere winter solstice.
‘‘We also call it the Spring Festival,’’ Zhong says.
‘‘There are a lot of activities from the first of the new year to the 15th, so there are 15 days of festival.
‘‘The last day of the new year celebration is the full moon, which is called the Lantern Festival.’’
According to the Chinese zodiac, the coming year is the Year of the Snake.
‘‘Chinese people always call it not the snake, but the small dragon,’’ Zhong says.
‘‘The Year of the Snake is right after the Year of the Dragon so people like to call it a little dragon or a small dragon because in China people say a snake is a small dragon.
‘‘The dragon has a lot of special meanings for Chinese people so the small dragon is a little like that.’’
The snake is the sixth sign of the Chinese zodiac and symbolises intuition, introspection, self-awareness and self-growth.
People born in the Year of the Snake are said to be wise, graceful and charming. They are also known for their cunning, and for taking an indirect path to their objective.
‘‘The snake is usually a very spiritual, intelligent animal,’’ Nan Tien Temple’s Venerable Miao You says.
‘‘And the snake is actually a quite peaceful animal. Unless you disturb it, it will never attack you.
‘‘Because the snake doesn’t go in a straight line, it twists and turns, but this still leads to happiness and wisdom.’’
For details of the festivities at Nan Tien Temple go to www.nantien.org.au