Lockington Primary School pupils learn about Chinese New Year
It is not only East Yorkshire’s Chinese population who enjoy hearing the drum of the lion dance to celebrate the New Year. Katy Forrester reports
THERE is more to Chinese New Year than eating a plate of noodles and fumbling with chopsticks.
Windows and doors will be decorated with red paper-cuts and couplets, with themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity.
Families will tuck into a banquet of food, including dumplings, spring rolls, sweet and sour chicken and spare ribs.
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In China, crowds will celebrate dressed in dragon costumes, as firecrackers explode and festivals take over the streets.
This year, the special occasion falls on Sunday and it traditionally runs for 15 days until the Chinese Lantern Festival.
Dunswell's famed China Red restaurant has been open for ten years and is managed by Junfeng Jiang and Meifang Zhang.
Junfeng said: "We moved to Britain in 1999 to start up our own business and bring a bit of Chinese culture to the area.
"It's been a real success and although most of our customers are British, they love spending the New Year with us.
"One of our most celebrated dishes is a mixed hot starter with pancakes, won-tons and seaweed – it's very tasty."
Staff have decorated the restaurant and even took six hours to carve a pumpkin into a majestic phoenix, surrounded by beetroot in the shape of roses.
"A lot of British people have been over to China and the food is very popular here," Junfeng said.
"They have gradually become accustomed to it and it's quite healthy – we always use fresh vegetables and meat.
"The New Year is a fantastic time but we traditionally celebrate it on New Year's Day instead of the 15 days in China."
Xiao Huang owns Hull Chinese Medical Centre in Hessle Road and has been living in the city for the past 13 years.
She fondly remembers watching the New Year gala on TV as a child with her family in Southeast China.
"I will still be watching it this year because you can get it on Sky TV from about 12pm to 4pm," Xiao said.
"The gala focuses on the zodiac animal, so this year will be the snake, and there will be plenty of dancing.
"It's traditional to have fish for New Year and they also have dumplings in the north of the country.
"People spring clean their house about a week before, and as part of the Buddhist religion, we send the gods to the sky and welcome them back on the fifth day.
"We burn incense and children receive envelopes with money in under their pillows, the equivalent to Christmas presents."
Xiao lives in Hull with her husband Zheng-Gang and son Bohan, who is now 12 and was born during the year of the horse.
"Although we don't celebrate the New Year like I used to in China, I will come home early and cook some traditional dishes – it's a great occasion," she said.
Children from Lockington Primary School, near Driffield, will soon welcome a new Chinese student and have been learning about his culture.
About 20 pupils, between the ages of four and seven, piled into the China Red restaurant to wrap spring rolls and hear traditional stories and fables.
Teacher Kimberley Peacock said: "At the moment, we are looking at different cultural celebrations and we thought it would be nice to take the children on a trip.
"We have a young Chinese boy joining the school and we wanted to inspire the pupils and help them to learn more about where he comes from.
"Some of them have never eaten Chinese food before or even met a Chinese person. It's a very small village and the school only has about 31 pupils.
"It's lovely to be able to bring so many of them here and they've been making Chinese dragons and dancing to music."
Mrs Peacock said she had been telling them of the legends of the Chinese Zodiac, including a race between the 12 animals.
"Some of the younger children have even been using noodles in maths and counting them out, as well as making patterns," she said.
Higher level teaching assistant Pam Turner said she had been inspired to teach the children more about Chinese New Year after visiting the restaurant for a meal.
She said: "We will welcome our new student on February 18 and this is a lovely way for the pupils to really understand more about the Chinese New Year, even if it's a little messy with the chopsticks."