THE sights and sounds of the exotic Orient came to the centre of Galashiels on Sunday as the Borders Chinese community gathered to celebrate the start of their new year.
The centrepiece of the celebrations was a spectacular lion dance by the renowned Glasgow Hong Lok Troupe in the town’s Bank Street, which showcased traditional Chinese acrobatics and music.
This year heralds the Year of the Dragon, which symbolises good fortune and wisdom. The dance marked the start of 14 days of celebrations which began officially on Monday.
Steve Kwan from the Borders Chinese Cultural Association, which organised this, the fifth such annual celebration in Galashiels, was delighted with the turnout of spectators.
He told us: “We had a fantastic day on Sunday. The weather was really kind to us with a great day and a good-sized crowd of about 300 turned out to watch the lion dance, which was a spectacular and dynamic display.
“We took in a good collection of donations which is fantastic and this will help us stage the event next year.”
The festival was opened by local Scottish Borders councillor, John Mitchell, who praised the festival for promoting Chinese culture and encouraging interaction between the local Borders Chinese community and others.
“It is always heartening to see so many people at our festival from outwith the Borders and outwith Scotland,” Councillor Mitchell told the crowd.
And he went on: “This is the Year of the Dragon, which is generally used as a symbol of culture in China and dates back thousands of years, and ties in with the dinosaur or terrible dragon. Whilst European dragons are evil, Chinese ones represent luck, power and strength. Some Chinese people here today may have hoped their son ‘will become a dragon’. Apparently dragon years are often the most popular to have babies.
“Thanks to Steve Kwan and his fellow organisers for allowing me to open the festival to celebrate the Chinese new year.”
The poster competition, which attracted 200 entries from 13 schools in the Borders, was judged on Monday and hundreds of the entries will adorn the walls of the town’s Beijing Beijing restaurant for the next 12 months.
First prize went to Rosie Holley of primary seven at Gordon Primary School. Second place went to Angus Dun, primary six at Heriot Primary, and third to Teigan Scobbie, also of primary seven at Gordon. A special award went to Stefan Nightingale of primary one at St Ronan’s Primary in Innerleithen for the youngest age category.
Also highly commended: Erin Fulton (P3) Kingsland Primary, Peebles; Gary Goodfellow (P7) Earlston; Sarah Jack (P7) Earlston; Kerr Smith (P6) Heriot; Paula Starrs (P6) Heriot and Eliana Capstick (P7) Gordon .
After Monday’s judging, Mr Kwan said: “It is great to once again see so many schools involved in promoting culture from different countries. It is always an exciting time and I am glad that local people can join in with our Chinese New Year celebrations. I am sure that the Year of the Dragon will bring greater fortune to us this year.”
Councillor Mitchell agreed: ”We’ve enjoyed judging this year. There were many good entries. and colourful designs have won through. I hope everybody has enjoyed it and look forward to next year’s entries.”