The city of Kolkata has a small but illustrious Chinese population. There are two main Chinese settlements in the city – Tangra and Tiretti Bazaar. Every year both these places celebrate the Chinese New Year with a lot of fervour.
And this year was no different. The Quint went to Tangra in Kolkata to be a part of the midnight celebrations. We saw a lot of fireworks, streets lit up with lights and some wonderful dragon dances.
The Chinese community of Kolkata has been settled in the city for more than two centuries. Over the years, the community has managed to build its own enclaves within the city and has tried to maintain their cultural identity within the cultural dynamics of the city.
As it stands now, the assimilation of the Chinese culture with that of the local Bengali culture has given a new identity to the Kolkata Chinese.
This shows in the celebration of Chinese New Year in the city every year.
THREAD: CHINESE NEW YEAR IN KOLKATA!— Ishadrita Lahiri (@ishadrita) January 24, 2020
So, was in Kolkata's Tangra a little while back- one of the two Chinese settlements in the city. This tiny settlement, hidden in a maze of long, winding alleys, was celebrating #ChineseNewYear2020 @TheQuint pic.twitter.com/Ffdac6Reb6
Those looking for the celebrations may seem lost as the make their way through the narrow and dingy alleys of Tangra. But as you reach the famous Chinese Kali Mandir, it’s like a new world comes to the fore.
The streets leading up to the Kali temple are decorated with lights as the Chinese community of the area and other residents, gather to ring in the New Year.
The fireworks start early, to set up the stage for the main event of the night – the famous dragon dance.
The dragon dances are presented by various youth clubs in the area. Each club puts up a procession where the young and old play in a band and march before the dragon.
The dragon costume is worn by two-three young men who perform various dance moves.
The main attraction of the dragon dance, though, is when the dragon tries to grab the ‘money bag’.
Bags made of lettuce, containing a red envelope with money, are hung from the windows of the various houses.
The men in the dragon costume then form a vertical formation and try to grab (or ‘eat’) the bag made of lettuce. If they’re successful, they get to keep the money.
After this, the dragons keep dancing and parading around on the streets till midnight.
Amidst all this, there’s also sumptuous food to satisfy everyone’s midnight cravings. From hot steaming momos and thukpas to richly fried spring rolls, yummy hakka fried rice and of course, some ghoogni and phuchka (because it’s Kolkata, after all!)
The celebrations continue till a little after midnight, before everyone retires back to their homes to spend New Year’s Day in private, family celebrations.
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