Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Netherlands - Chinese New Year Celebration in Den Haag

I admit that I find it a little bit annoying to have people constantly telling me that I am from China. In a sense, it is not entirely wrong because both of my grandparents were born in China, but I am a second generation Indonesian born Chinese and we speak Indonesian at home. Hence, I now say that I am from Indonesian with a Chinese root.

Nonetheless, I take both Chinese and Indonesian cultures together and I celebrate Chinese New Year every year by having dinner together with my friends whenever I'm abroad. We had a hotpot at my apartment yesterday, and although my apartment is rather small to host 7 people and the table was too small to fit all of the ingredients, we had a great time! After all, it's the good companion that matters, and good food adds up extra happiness and warmth in the tummy :)

So, on Saturday, February 1st, my friends and I visited the China Town in Den Haag (or also known as The Hague in English). We got some information from a website for Chinese culture in the Netherlands that there were going to be a big Chinese New Year celebration that features lion dance and dragon dance. These dances are very typical of Chinese New Year and I can't remember when was the last time I watched them live. Maybe about 10 years ago?

lion dance

dragon dance

The lion and dragon dance parades started around 12:30 PM, close to the Den Haag Centraal station. We were lucky because we just arrived at the station a few minutes before the parade started. There were multiple lions and dragons spread around the China Town in Den Haag, so if you can't see anything because of the massive crowd, try different spots within the China Town area with less crowds. And when I mean less crowd, it's about 40-50 people standing around the performances. We left around 3:30 and there were still a lot of lion and dragon dances around the town, so you don't have to worry if you come a little bit later than the starting time.

If you are lucky, you can also get hong bao (洪保), a red envelop containing money that you get typically from your parents, grandparents and/or married aunts and uncles. But this time, you get the hong bao from the performer, and these hong bao's are normally sponsored by a shop.

It contained 30 cents and a coupon for free snack for any purchase in Wah Nam Hong, one of the largest Asian groceries store chain in the Netherlands. You can't buy a cup of coffee with that, but culturally, the amount is not really what matters. Well, but of course, who isn't happy getting extra cash? *grins*

So, how do you find a performance spot for lion and dragon dances around the town? Actually, it is highly unlikely that you cannot find them because the dances are always accompanied by really loud beats of Chinese drum and cymbals. When the dance is ending, you will hear the sound of firecrackers and see tons of smoke from the area. Only approach that site when you don't know what is going on and what the firecrackers look like. The red paper-like waste on the street (see photo below) shows that a performance was done there, so don't bother waiting for another performance there :)

Whenever there is a crowd, there must be a performance going on. And if you are a design enthusiast, you'll probably notice that the dragon in the picture below and the second picture from the top have different designs. 

There were more activities held until 6, but we were too tired from the hotpot party last night. If you are new to Chinese New Year celebrations, you should try going to one of these celebrations. Similar celebration is going to be held in Rotterdam on the 6th of February 2014. It's not too late to celebrate! And there were many international visitors today, so don't worry too much if you are not Chinese or don't know anything about Chinese culture. Just enjoy it!

Wanna celebrate in Den Haag next year? Here's the map:

View Larger Map

Happy Chinese New Year, and wherever you are, I wish you success and happiness in the year of horse! :)


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