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Jan 22, 2004

Chinese-Belizeans celebrate New Year

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All those tiny explosions heard around Belize City today may have sounded like gangsters gone wild, but they were only firecrackers set off in celebration of the New Year. No, not the one that passed twenty-two days ago… I’m talking about the New Year that started today…and observed by over a billion people. Patrick Jones reports.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

The celebration, complete with firecrackers and drums, ushers in the Chinese Lunar New Year. President of the Chinese Association, Lee Mark Chang, says the festivities promote togetherness.

Lee Mark Chang, President, Chinese Association of Belize

“It is usually a tradition where they go around, and to bring in the New Year they scare away the evil spirits as usual. It’s also to bring good luck for the New Year.”

That wish for good luck is made even more relevant as 2004 is being observed as the year of the monkey. Taiwanese Ambassador Charles Tsai says it’s the one zodiac of the twelve used by the Chinese that symbolises the best chance for prosperity.

Charles Tsai

“The year of monkey means, the monkey is clever, energetic and innovative and very clever, have a good memory. So I believe this year of monkey will bring the fortune and prosperity because the clever people can make money.”

The New Year’s celebration takes revellers to the homes and business places of their countrymen to spread the new years cheer, including the traditional lion dance. The highlight of activity is when one of the performers is hoisted up on stilts to retrieve the special gift, usually a snack, which has been prepared by the family whose home they are visiting. And with over forty homes and business in Belize City on the celebration list, this lion will have a belly full. Chang says similar activities are taking place in the districts, and include people from both Mainland China and Taiwan.

Lee Mark Chang, President, Chinese Association of Belize

“It is very important for us to keep up a tradition. And me being bi-lingual, we try to keep up both sides of the tradition.”

That tradition includes decorating their homes with bright red, the colour the Chinese use to symbolise celebration.

Charles Tsai

“This is a Chinese custom that we put red banners on both sides of the gate, and also on the top of the gate. The Chinese characters usually symbolize the prosperity, healthy, and also bring good fortune. Kind of good luck wording on a Chinese New Years that we put a red banner on the gate.”

Patrick Jones

“And why celebrate towards the end of January?”

Charles Tsai, Taiwanese Ambassador to Belize

“Chinese lunar year, every year they are different because according to the Chinese calendar there are thirty days every month. So every four years there will be one extra month, so a double month to adjust the Chinese lunar year. So Chinese lunar year they fall in different dates in every year.”

Which explains why the celebration is taking on January twenty-second. Next year, the celebration won’t happen until February eighth.

The Chinese population in Belize is roughly eight thousand, with the majority of them coming from the mainland. But P.R.C., Tsai says, that politics play no role in such an important holiday.

Charles Tsai

“The celebration is for all Chinese people living in Belize. They are welcome and everybody is welcome… As ambassador I wish to take this opportunity to wish all Chinese people in Belize to have good health and prosperity and good business and make money and also I would like to say a few Chinese words.” (Speaking Chinese.)

Patrick Jones for News 5.

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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