Chinese New Year Celebration in Prague 2016
The date of Chinese New Year differs every year - it may be any day from 21st of January and 20th of February. The date is set astronomically. The New Year comes at the day of second new moon after winter solstice.
In 2016, the chosen day was 8th of February. In China, there are usually public holidays connected with celebration of Chinese New Year. It makes Chinese New Year's Eve and six consecutive days after Chinese New Year's Day. But celebration of this awaited event lasts longer than these seven days. Some people start to celebrate Chinese New Year three weeks before the actual event. They clean houses and prepare for the upcoming event. Most of the people usually return to work after official public holidays.
On the 8th of February 2016, China enters the period of the Fire Monkey.
Chinese New Year Celebration in Prague
Celebration of Chinese New Year in Prague was set for the weekend from 6th of February to 7th of February. It took place on Prague Exhibition grounds in a part of Prague called Holešovice. Prague Exhibiton grounds is the place where trade fairs and other events are often held.
A program for Chinese New Year Celebration started at 10am and ended at 7pm both of the days.
The program took place in two separate locations - the Pavilion E and Křižík Fountaine (Křižíkova Fontána). The accompanying program (shops, food, public lectures) was held in the former. The main program occured in the latter.
Note: Last year, in 2015, it was the first year of Chinese New Year Celebration in Prague. It was held on Old Town's Square and quite amount of people attended it.The reason for this event (Chinese New Year Celebration) to be held in Prague is growing amount of Chinese tourists visiting Prague. With celebrating Chinese New Year, the Czech Republic wants to present Prague as a favourable and attractive place to visit.
The reason for growing amount of Chinese tourists is for the Czech Republic started to cooperate with China (more than formerly). The initiative came more likely from the President of the Czech Republic. He made his way to China and negotiated about the field of cooperation. Although, the President of the Czech Republic is quite controversial person, I have to give him a credit for that step (feel free to disagree with me). Cooperation with China may help with growth of Czech economy and create more job vacancies. This was just a little digression.
The Pavilion E
The Accompanying Program (the Pavilion E)
The Pavilion E is one of smaller halls on Prague Exhibiton grounds surrounding Křižík Fountaine. Organizers prepared an eventful and varied accompanying program.
First of all, there were two kind of foods you could buy - China food (for example: noodles with vegetables or spring rolls; China food was very popular among visitors - there were really long queues of people waiting for it) and Czech food (typical schnitzels and beer). Within visitors, there were people carrying balloons and were offering them to children.
Public lectures constituted the main part of the accompanying program. When I entered the pavilion, there was a public lecture about calligraphy going on a screen. Later, a public lecture Chinese for beginners was on the program.
Except public lectures, one could try caligraphy by oneself or could attend a lecture of martial arts.
Other 'passive' activities were prepared for people as well.
There was an exhibition of calligraphy on the walls of the Pavillion E. Paintings created with calligraphic painting style were also included. There was a woman serving Chinese tea to customers. Other woman presented the art of paper-cut. There were also small stands with Chinese traditional crafts - carving into eggshells, plants and insects made from dough or lucky charms were also presented. You could by any of those.
Children could have their faces painted with animals from Chinese Zodiac and people could let themselves to be photographed by a professional photographer.
The Main Program (Křižík Fountaine)
Křižík Fountaine is an outside space surrounded by small pavillions. It consists of small pool with fountains and a small amphitheatre. The stage for the main program was built on top of those fountains, covering them. A small stage for the world famous 'Lion dance' was prepared right in front of the audience.
The main program occured twice a day and lasted for one and half hour. The last performance on Sunday 7th of February was ended with Chinese tuned fireworks. The firework started at 5pm of Central European time. It was midnight in China at that time and at this time, the Year of the Fire Monkey begins. The time of fireworks was chosen as a symbolic link between Prague, the Czech Republic, and China.
So, how did the main program look like? The program started with a performance of a mixed Czech-Chinese group called Wushu, which opened Chinese New Year Celebration with a famous 'Dragon dance'. The Dragon dance is common performance which usually opens celebrations.
Other participants were all from China. There were four ensembles of athletes and musicians who came from Beijing and Hebei province.
After the Dragon dance, the famous Lion dance took place on the stage in front of the audience. The lions event entered the audience and showed themselves to people.
Other program consisted of artists going around the stage on unicycles juggling with rods, after that there were two women playing unique Chinese musical instruments - suona (kind of looks like a small trumpet) and flute. One artist presented her art of balance - she balanced rotating objects on a rod which she held in her mouth. A couple of athletes stretched their bodies and made quite amount of difficult exercises while holding each other above the ground.
The first part of the program finished with a clown creating animals from balloons. He took a few children on the stage and gave them those balloon animals. It was really nice.
Balancing Thing on Feet
The second part of the main program started with four artist balancing and rotating things on their feet. There was also another music performance with woman playing a musical instrument which resembled a lute. The group, which was juggling with rods on unicycles before, presented itself with another juggling performance. This time, they were juggling with hats.
The Czech-Chinese group Wushu introduced martial arts - shaolin style, tai-chi, naginata fighting and sword fighting.
The group of four artists balancing things on their feet came with a performace with single girl balancing and rotating a table on her feet. It was really amazing. Following was a single artist juggling with seven balls. But the most astounding performance had yet to come.
The most astounding and unbelieavable performance was that of the man who put a few chairs (I think it was six of them) on top of one another so that he created a small tower from them. Then, he was exercising on top of those chairs.
The Athlete on Chairs
One of the last performances was a traditional 'Mask changing' performance. The artist changed mask on his face but I couldn't even catch a glimpse of the way he was changing them. It was so quick. This art is said to be a very guarded secret and only the artist knows the way of changing masks.
After that performace, only one musical performance with traditional Chinese musical instruments - so-called erhu - took the place, than there was the last 'Lion dance' and the main program was over.
The Mask Changing
For those who didn't have enough, there were another two attractions to see.
The first one was next to Křižík Fountaine. There was a small exhibition of Chinese lanterns in shapes of soldiers from Terracotta army.
The second one was in front of the Trade Fair Palace which is part of the National Gallery. There was an exhibition of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (who visited Prague on the weekend of Chinese New Year Celebration) - the exhibition is called Zodiac Heads and there are presented all animals from Chinese Zodiac.
As you can see, the program for Chinese New Year Celebration was really varied and everyone could find something they like in it. I highly recommend you - if you visit Prague next year around the time of Chinese New Year Celebration, you definitely should take your time and attend it. It's worth it.
Note: I added the video showing Chinese tuned firework near Křižík Fountaine. But if you are interested, there are already more videos (on Youtube) of all of the performances held in Křižík Fountaine. Just type 'Oslava nového čínského roku 2016 Praha' (it means Chinese New Year Celebration in Prague 2016) in Youtube browser and there you can find them.