A Taste of Chinese New Year in Mauritius
Chinese New Year – also known as Chinese Spring Festival – is celebrated every January or February, normally on the second full moon after the winter solstice according to the lunisolar Chinese calendar.
2015 is the Year of the Sheep and New Year falls on Thursday 19 February this year, though festivities traditionally run from Chinese New Year’s Eve until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month in the following year.
Chinatown is the place to be
Although the Mauritius Chinese community is fairly small – about 3% of the population – it has had great influence on life in Mauritius, and Chinese Spring Festival is celebrated with much pomp and fanfare on the island.
The main celebrations are centred around Chinatown in Port Louis, where the new year is ushered in with vibrant processions of lion and dragon dances, watched by families and visitors from across the island.
Streets are festooned with red lanterns (red being a symbol of happiness) and the aromas of delicious Chinese street food waft through the air. Shops and houses are decorated with oriental ornaments and are thoroughly cleaned before the festival begins. In hope that the following year will be bountiful, abundant offerings of traditional foods like dumplings, seaweed and raw fish salad are proffered – though no knives are to be used on the day itself to prevent injuries and starting the year with bad luck, so most cooking gets done in advance.
Traditional Chinese New Year “wax” cakes are also made in the lead up to the festival – a steamed, gelatinous concoction made with dried fruit and rice flour, otherwise known as sticky cake, or Nian Gao – and distributed among family and friends. Colourful firework displays and crackers fill the night sky and ward off evil spirits as the new year rolls in.
At your hotel
Even if you don’t feel like venturing too far from your resort, it’s unlikely you’ll miss out on the fun. Many hotels in Mauritius celebrate Chinese New Year in style, dressing up public areas with red flowers, lanterns and decorative Chinese umbrellas and fans, and perhaps dropping a special lucky red envelope or ‘Foong pao’ upon your pillow at turndown time.
Special multi-course menus and lavish Chinese buffets are a major part of the New Year experience too, and many hotels lay on their as their own elaborate dragon performances and firework shows.