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Jan 31, 2003

Chinese celebrate Year of the Goat

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Last night we carried a story on a frightening robbery and assault that took place at a Chinese owned grocery in Belize City. Tonight, we take a look at another aspect of Chinese life in Belize, one that looks beyond the burglar bars.

Marion Ali, Reporting

If you’re close to the Chinese community, then you’ll know it’s no ordinary weekend. In fact, Saturday will mark one of the biggest holidays on their calendar: New Year. 2003 falls under the Year of the Goat, which translates to prosperity and peace for all those whose birth year matches the symbol. But how significant is the New Year for Belizeans with roots in China? Taiwanese Ambassador, Charles Tsai, says very.

Charles Tsai, Taiwanese Ambassador to Belize

“Of course there are other festivals like Dragon Boat Festival, like the Moon Festival, but I think the most important festival in Chinese is the Chinese lunar New Year.”

But according to Queen Street landmark, Simon Quan and his son Peter, the tradition brought over from Hong Kong seems to be losing its hold.

Peter Quan, Merchant

“The younger generation, yes, they understand what it is basically, but their perception like say to put offerings to the ancestors, or to do certain rituals that the older generation would do, they would not accept it or they won’t do it. Speaking fro ourselves, since I was born here, we kind of adapt to the Belizean culture per se.”

And while passing on tradition might pose its own challenges, there is another factor that we can all identify with.

Simon Quan, Merchant

“Before, we Chinese Association ih got money it could spend for the dragon and so, but now Chinese Association, no too much money put up.”

But while money might be lacking, this doesn’t stop the Chinese community from carefully observing the holiday’s seemingly endless superstitions.

Charles Tsai

“You can clean your house, but you don’t take the garbage out of your house. It’s a Chinese custom that New Year’s Day you are not supposed to bring anything out.”

Peter Quan

“Everything has to be done to cleaned up or prepared New Year’s eve, so on New Year’s Day, you should not wash your hair…well of course you need to bathe, but in terms of washing your hair, you should avoid it.”

Charles Tsai

“Sometimes they are suspicious that you break something it will not bring you good fortune for a year, so most Chinese people know that you must be cautious that day.”

Peter Quan

“We still take time out as Chinese, two hours or three hours of lunch or dinner to bring in the New Year. It doesn’t have to be a bang or whatever, but just that mere sitting down together as a family to share that occasion, to bring that occasion is enough, to mark that day, that event.”

Charles Tsai

“That day usually they would prepare fish. Fish means prosperity, so fish, they should always have these dishes.”

And while the Chinese community enjoys these treats, both Ambassador Tsai and Simon Quan have a message for their countrymen.

Charles Tsai

“I would like to use this opportunity to express my best wishes for all the Chinese people living in Belize. I wish they have a happy Chinese New Year.”

(Simon Quan speaking in Chinese)

The Chinese calendar uses twelve different animals to mark each year. Those years consists of three hundred and sixty days each with an extra month every four years.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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