Lunar New Year at Nan Hua Temple

I’m not Chinese, and I never knew anything about the Lunar New Year before I lived in China in 11 years ago. However, my experience of the annual holiday while I was working as an English teacher in Dalian was enough to make it an event I look forward to every year.

At almost 24-years-old, I arrived in Dalian, in northeast China’s Liaoning province in February 2007, in the middle of the Lunar New year holiday. At the time it was the Year of the Pig – my Chinese horoscope, which was really good luck (auspicious) my Chinese colleagues would tell me later.

My first ever Facebook profile picture, taken a few days after arriving in Dalian on the night of a terrible storm at the end of the Lunar New Year in 2007.

I’d never lived anywhere else except with my family in Durban. I’d never been overseas so there were a lot of firsts on this adventure. The first one of course being my new home, a Communist-era style apartment that was a 20-minute bus ride from the school where I worked.

My apartment in 2007

My apartment had a large red sticker on the door. I had no idea what it was about, but later I learned that it was a symbol of good fortune.

Being a South African, the biggest thing that shocked me about my new home was that there was no security gate or door to the entrance of the apartment building. What about crime?

No security at the entrance of our building

The year I lived in China changed my life in so many ways. I think that’s part of the reason why I love to celebrate and observe the Lunar New Year as an outsider.

Walking a section of the Great Wall of China from Jinshanling to Simatai, September 2007

I get to relive that life-changing experience again for a few brief hours. All the fireworks, dumplings and well wishes for a good year. It’s just such a positive and fun holiday.

Everybody wants a red envelope: Lunar New Year at Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit, Gauteng, February 2018

There are a lot more rituals and traditions involved which I’m not an expert about so I’m not going to try and explain them. All I can say is that I’ve found at Lunar New Year celebrations in China, I’ve felt very welcome by people who’ve invited me to celebrate with them.

Dragon dance performance at the Lunar New Year Celebrations at Nan Hua Temple, Bronkhorstspruit, Gauteng, February 2018

Back here in South Africa, the Chinese communities who host big events are also incredibly welcoming and the events are open to all.

A young lion dance performer at Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit, Gauteng, February 2018

Living in a diverse city like Johannesburg means that there are always at least three different events to choose from. At these events you you can mark the occasion with some tasty food and watch some amazing lion and dragon dance performances by local groups.


Families watch a lion dance performance at Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit, February 2018

This year we went to the annual celebration at Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit, about 1.5 hours drive from Johannesburg. There were thousands of people who attended and being held in February it was really hot. What a great excuse for me to get a new parasol for some protection from the sun.

I just love my umbrella which has a beautifully painted design of bamboo, blossoms and birds. I can’t wait to use it again.

We had a great time watching the performances and afterwards enjoyed some delicious street food style dishes for lunch.

Final position of the dragon dance performance before bowing in front of the temple. Lunar New Year at Nan Hua temple in Bronkhorstspruit, Gauteng, February 2018
Beautiful, vibrant colours and the open mouth of the dragon, facing the temple entrance. Lunar New Year at Nan Hua temple in Bronkhorstspruit, Gauteng, February 2018
Lunch time, there were so many street food stalls to choose from. Everything on offer was vegetarian. Lunar New Year at Nan Hua temple in Bronkhorstspruit, Gauteng, February 2018

If you want to visit the temple for the Lunar New Year in 2019 make sure to get there by 10am so you can enjoy all the fun. Getting up early on a Sunday morning to get there in time will be worth it. That’s a promise.

Watch a video of the day below edited completely on my phone using the iMovie app >>

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