Chinese New Year: In the year of the monkey

The Spring Festival gala hosted by UCC's Confucious Institute

Chinese New Year means a veritable Chinese banquet, writes Ciara Mc Donnell

THE world’s largest annual human migration is underway. Chunyun, or ‘Spring Rush’, is triggered by millions of people travelling home across China to celebrate the Chinese New Year in the bosom of their family.

This year, it is expected that about 320 million people will travel by rail during the Spring Festival.

The Year of the Monkey, according to the Chinese 12-year animal cycle, will begin today, February 8, and will last until January 27, 2016. Babies born after the lunar new year will be “fire monkeys”, known for their daring, playful, dynamic and competitive personalities. Considered extremely intelligent, monkeys often gain huge success in their career, and are known for their versatility and ability to flip a situation from negative to positive.

The Dublin Chinese New Year Festival is now in its ninth year and, together with the Chinese embassy and Dublin City Council, will be running events throughout the month to celebrate Chinese culture. They include an exhibition in Kildare Village that explores the unlikely historical connection between Shanzhen and Shannon, to the Spring Festival Fair this weekend at Dublin’s CHQ building where families can enjoy dumplings, tea ceremonies and musical performances on the bamboo flute as well as experience the traditional Chinese sugar painting.

Chinese New Year: In the year of the monkey

Dublin Zoo is running a weekend celebrating the Year of the Monkey next weekend when experts will be on hand to offer all kinds of monkey-themed arts and crafts and learn all about the monkeys who live at the zoo. For the full programme of events, check out

Twinned with Shanghai, Cork has long-standing links with China, and UCC plays a large role in this. Home to a vibrant and prosperous Chinese community, there are 380 Chinese students currently studying across all disciplines and levels at the university. Emma Connolly is one of five international strategy officers at UCC and her remit is China. She ensures that Chinese students at UCC have a culturally diverse experience while gaining a first rate education.

“Our Chinese students would be one of the largest cohorts from any one country, and as such, have formed a real community here at UCC,” she explains. “We have a Chinese Student Society here, and they are running a week of activities to celebrate the Spring Festival. We also have a Chinese Student and Scholar Society — there are a number of China-related programmes here”. The Chinese community at UCC began their new year celebrations last week with the Spring Festival gala hosted by UCC’s Confucious Institute.

Heng Mei from UCC’s Bejing office has been working in UCC since December, specifically on developing a visiting lecturer’s course that will educate Chinese lecturers about working in UCC.

Chinese New Year: In the year of the monkey

Chinese New Year is all about family, says Heng Mei, who equates Spring Festival to our Christmas. “Students will miss family, but Chinese New Year is about celebrating together and looking forward to an exciting year ahead — I am sure our students will use it to celebrate their achievements and look forward to another great year in Ireland.”

One of the customs of Spring Festival is to visit friends and family to offer good wishes. Houses will be decorated with lanterns and the lucky colours of gold and red which are said to symbolise wealth and happiness. Families will feast on fish, spring rolls, tangerines, steamed buns and dumplings and fireworks will light up the skies to ward off evil spirits

Younger family members will offer good wishes to their elders and in return be gifted money wrapped in red paper. Chinese families in Ireland will emulate this custom by gathering in each other’s homes to eat and celebrate and spend time together.


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