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As the lunar calendar winds down to an end, the usually dark parks and roads in China started glowing with red lanterns. The otherwise constantly open fruit shops are now closed, the previously crowded streets are empty. What had happened? Where has everyone gone?

In China, typically around the break of January and February, the lunar year ends and the beginning of the next one is celebrated at home.  Those living in cities tend to go back to their hometown to spend the New Year with their families. The whole country watches the special New Year broadcast on TV, where traditional Chinese culture intertwines with more modern elements. A feast of various dishes is laid out, amongst which fish, dumplings, sweet rice balls, and sticky rice cakes are especially popular. These foods are thought to bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year. Red envelopes containing money are given to younger family members.

If one were to venture into a park in the city, they would be welcomed by hundreds, even thousands of multicoloured lanterns in various shapes. From flowers to boats to historical scenes, they brighten up the usually unlit parks. A delicate, glowing lotus floats by the illuminated bridge and as dusk falls, the colours get more vivid and bright. Performances of traditional Chinese instruments, singing and dance can be found in cultural centers of larger cities. As New Year hits, the phones started to ping constantly as everyone you have ever met sends you a New Year's wish. Xin nian kuai le (Happy New Year), may all your wishes come true, may you be happy and prosperous. These are just a few wishes you may get for Chinese New Year. 

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Myself and other moderators at the New Year Gala
And here in Chester? The city tends to have a Chinese New Year parade, complete with a paper dragon and a Tai Chi performance. This year, the University’s International Center organized a Chinese New Year gala where international students showed their artistic versatility, both in Chinese and English. The Department of Modern Languages will be organizing a celebration next week, where visitors can try various Chinese traditions and find out more about Chinese customs. Even if one doesn't come from a cultural background that celebrates the lunar New Year, there are plenty of opportunities to experience this most important event in the Chinese calendar.

So why not venture out this year, and celebrate an ancient tradition from an even more ancient culture? Everyone, xin nian kuai le! Happy New Year!

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