By Haoruo Wei, Photos by Haoruo Wei
The legendary dragon is dancing around the hall decorated by national flags of China and Denmark, in the constant applause and cheers coming from the crowd. Musikhuset Aarhus hosted the 15th Chinese New Year Celebration, the Year of the Pig, on January 27, almost a week before the lunar calendar turns over a new chapter.
Acrobatics, folk dance, Taichi swords, Chinese zither (Gu Zheng) – the Chinese-style performances are showing one after another on the main stage surrounded by the audience. Typical for the annual Spring Festival TV Gala on the Lunar New Year’s Eve in China, these performances are now available in the second biggest city in Denmark. Aarhus has been hosting the largest Chinese New Year event in the whole country since 2002. “For the first time, we celebrated the centenary of the initial group of Chinese people settling down in Denmark in 1902,” Chairman of the Friendship Association Denmark – China, the sponsor and organiser of the event, Julie Brink explains: “I am an old friend with China, we’ve known each other for over 40 years.”
Wearing a red Chinese Tang suit, Brink passes through the crowd and stops at times to greet people. Apart from Chinese community, a lot of Danes attend the event, clapping for the shows and chatting with Chinese around them. “It’s a people-to-people meeting,” says Brink.
The Vice-President of Aarhus Chinese Culture Association (ACCA), Dai Li leads us backstage where the dancers are rehearsing their Cheongsam-show. These are young Chinese actresses currently living in Aarhus. Some of them are ACCA members living here for a couple of years, whereas some are new students at Aarhus University. Since they arrived in Jutland in September, they have joined in the dance team voluntarily to prepare for the show on this celebration. When asked whether or not they have ever felt stressed or tired in the long-run-preparation, a student actress answers: “I am new in Denmark and was lonely at the very beginning. I love dancing and I am grateful to meet people who make me feel at home. I only feel happy every time when we dance together.”
“No matter how long we have been here and how well we have integrated into this society, it is not our home country after all, we are always foreigners,” says Dai, introducing us to her two half-Chinese daughters who were born in Denmark. “That’s why we enjoy participating in the Chinese New Year Celebration. Of course, it is a pleasure to bring Chinese culture to Danish community in the meanwhile, but the most important thing for me is that we are offered a platform to maintain our traditions and add happiness to our life, when we are far from home,” adds Dai.
Back in the hall, the gathering is not limited to the performance area. Looking in the direction that some children are running towards, clusters of red decorations are found from the ceilings to the desks. People are walking around the “shopping area”, exploring the exotic Asian goods curiously. Traditional Chinese New Year specials are displayed on the stands – Spring Festival couplets usually seen on the sides of the doors for expressing happiness and hopes in the coming year; red envelopes with lucky money as gifts to children and the elderly in the family; red lanterns for decorating, etc. These stands are provided for both Chinese and Danish sellers to sell the specials as well as to introduce Sino culture.
Ida Richter, one of the Danes looking around the stands, says she comes here driven by her interest in the culture of the East. “I’ve been to China last year and I also learnt the language in my gymnasium,” showing us the children’s book illustrated with Chinese drawings that she has bought just now. “Yes, I will celebrate the Lunar New Year personally, my friends and I are planning to gather for cooking Asian dishes. And we will prepare ‘lucky money’ for each other,” says Richter.
Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the biggest traditional festival that originated in ancient China, but is not only celebrated by ethnic Chinese now. It goes with the lunar calendar and the dates of the 15-days festival alter from year to year accordingly. Starting from Feb 5th, 2019, the year of the Pig comes based on a twelve-year-cycled Chinese zodiac. To people who celebrate this festival in Jutland, we wish you a very warm Chinese New Year.