Two Chinatowns in Joburg mean double the Chinese New Year celebrations that kick off this Saturday as the Year of the Fire Rooster crows its arrival.
But for real devotees, it all begins at the Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit on Chinese New Year’s Eve (Friday night) just before the stroke of midnight. They will light incense and make spiritual offerings.
Chinatown on Commissioner Street will be the place to be on the first day of the Lunar New Year on Saturday. This annual celebration of friends and family, food and fireworks, has become a Joburg tradition and a fixture on the city calendar.
Sections of Commissioner Street between Miriam Makeba and Alexander Streets will be closed off as restaurant tables, food stalls and kiosks are set up on sidewalks under red lanterns strung across streetlights.
The Nan Hua performing arts group will set the tone with a drumming session at 6pm, followed by traditional dancing and singing. Dragon dancing gets under way at 7.45pm and the prancing lion will make its way from store to store lighting firecrackers and receiving offerings of lai see (lucky red packets) and fresh lettuces.
Loud firecrackers are symbolic of scaring off bad spirits and fresh lettuces are symbols of life and growth. Expect the night skies to be lit up as a musical fireworks display crowns off the night’s revelry at 9am.
Back in Bronkhorstspruit, Sunday morning will start with a light-offering Buddhist dharma ceremony at 9am before festivities of dancing, singing and martial arts. There will be food stalls aplenty and the temple grounds will be transformed with the display of giant lanterns of the 12 Chinese zodiac creatures.
Then, on Saturday February 4, Cyrildene Chinatown celebrates. Sunset will bring dragon and lion dancing as people spill onto Derrick Avenue.
On offer will be all kinds of foods, especially those with idiomatic or homophonic associations with good fortune and prosperity. Look out for whole steamed fish, sea moss, oysters, shiitake mushrooms and nian gao (a circular cake made from rice flour and sugar).
All that’s left to say is Kung Hei Fat Choi – a traditional wish for abundance, wealth and prosperity in this Year of the Fire Rooster.