Party on ...

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 January, 2012, 12:00am


Long after the rest of the world has finished welcoming the new year, in many parts of India the celebrations have continued. Mid-January witnessed Makar Sankranti, the harvest festival that marks the sun's auspicious journey into the northern hemisphere. Pockets in Mumbai (and other large Indian cities, such as Calcutta) will stay in party mode until next week celebrating the Lunar New Year.

This is a time for the city's Chinese residents to reconnect with the traditions of their homeland. There are always plenty of firecrackers. And the Chinese consulate throws a party for those who are away from their families or unable to celebrate at home.

However, for most members of the community, the festival isn't really about celebrating (or partying), but getting together with the entire family.

Lifelong Mumbai resident Shih Pao Chang says the celebrations at her home will start this evening. 'The New Year's Eve dinner is considered important - and has to be a 10-course meal.'

The entire family - including members who live outside Mumbai - gets together for the occasion. Some of her happiest childhood memories involve Lunar New Year, such as listening to her grandparents tell stories about their past and their family's history. For her, this has been a vital link to her roots, given that her grandparents left China when they were young.

Then there are the rituals passed down through the generations, such as visiting ancestral graves to light incense sticks and pray for good health and prosperity.

'Chinese New Year is all about new beginnings,' Chang says.

But the celebrations won't be confined to members of Mumbai's Chinese community - that's good news for lovers of Chinese food as various speciality restaurants will be offering lavish spreads for the occasion.

Chef Han Zhou, of the Grand Hyatt Hotel's China House restaurant, says: 'Chinese New Year is always celebrated with lots of sumptuous food, including seafood, meat and dumplings. The family sits together and en- joys dumplings with different fillings - this is the symbol of family reunion.'

But with the passing of time, some traditions and customs are not being followed as strictly as they once were. One can sense Chang's wistfulness as she says she misses the grand celebrations of her childhood, and that her grandparents still talk about the traditional rituals and celebration.

'They always feel nostalgic during Chinese New Year.'