Celebrating Chinese New Year is always a highlight in Ricefield’s busy calendar, and this year was certainly no exception. We worked with Kelvin Hall and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to plan a fun afternoon with drop-in craft workshops for families, and a showcase of various interactive traditional Chinese indoor and outdoor games for the local communities.
The event on Sunday 5th February was also a personal highlight for me, as this was the first time I’ve been able to volunteer with Ricefield and the amazing team during the Spring Festival period. I turned up excited to learn more!
Our team of over 20 volunteers and I started setting up at 10am, getting Kelvin Hall’s sports hall fit for a party. Lanterns were hung, and the red tablecloths were out. The fortune cookies were waiting and the music was on. At 12pm we were ready to go.
I worked at the Welcome Table (lacking any sort of sporting skill) and visitors had a serious challenge facing them when they arrived. Ricky the Rooster was looking for his 11 zodiac animal friends, and you could collect them by trying each of the activities on offer. Families were sent off with their sticker sheets on a mission!
First stop was the Wishing Tree, to collect the snake. Traditionally wishes and hopes for the new year are written and tied on to the tree, and the higher it is hung the more likely it is to come true. We had some lovely messages wishing for health and happiness, several lego and Rapunzel set requests, and my favourite for ‘a whole year of pizza’.
My personal favourite activity in Kelvin Hall was Catching Seven Pieces (抓石子). Else, Ricefield’s Chair, remembered playing this traditional game as a child with a collection of pebbles, and she was definitely the expert. We played this time around small pouches of rice, and players used their strategy and dexterity to juggle and try to catch all seven. I was pretty awful, but I’ll be practicing for next year!
Also on offer was a Chopsticks Challenge, where visitors tested their kuaizi skills against increasingly small and fiddly objects. Maybe we’ll stick to noodles in the future. On the next table over you could try Tangram (七巧板). This game was invented in China during the Song Dynasty, and has grown in popularity in Europe after first being brought here by trading ships in the 19th century. Players try to rearrange flat shapes to create new images and patterns. Simple to understand, but hard to master. There was also a Memory Game with the famous red envelopes given as presents at Chinese New Year. The colour red is a symbol of good luck, and the gift is given to ward off evil spirits. Players tried to match the red envelopes into pairs, in a special new year version of the game often played here with cards.
Classic Chinese board games such as Chinese Chequers (中国跳棋) and The Game of Go (围棋) were in full swing, and some of our volunteers were outsmarted by some very well-practiced children. I learned more about Go, and was particularly impressed that is the oldest board game still being played today, having been invented in China approximately 2,500 years ago. In ancient times it was considered one of the four essential arts of aristocratic society. We’re very sophisticated here at Ricefield!
Our more athletic visitors played a Shuttlecock Game (踢毽子) and Ping Pong (乒乓球), joined by two trainees from Kelvin Hall. There was also Bamboo Dancing (竹竿舞), accompanied by the sound of drums. This dance requires some skill, as dancers follow and step along with the rhythmic movement of the bamboo poles. This dance is popular with the Chinese Li minority ethic group, where the dancing can last late into the night on special occasions. It seemed that our visitors were no strangers to the dance floor.
Over the road in Kelvingrove Museum the celebrations continued. Families had a chance to try some New Year-themed crafts, including decorating a lion head with Ricefield co-founder Lin and making dragon puppets to take home. Both creatures are very important symbols, with Chinese guardian lions (狮) having strong protective powers, and the dragon representing power, strength and good fortune. All very important components for a successful year!
After this journey, visitors returned to the wishing tree, to unite Ricky with his zodiac animal friends and be rewarded with a fortune cookie for all their hard work. It was great to see everyone’s enthusiasm and to hear how much they’d enjoyed all the new experiences. I bet we have some Game of Go fans playing on their mobile phone now!
This event marks almost one year of my volunteering with Ricefield, and it made for a great anniversary. Bringing together the whole team of volunteers, ranging from students from China and beyond studying in Glasgow, to Glaswegians looking to learn some more about Chinese culture, was a great display of Ricefield’s diversity. I’ve learned so much over this past year (my origami skills have never been better!), and met some interesting people. Its the mixed talents of this team that made this Chinese New Year event such a success and made the long day of work very worthwhile.
What a way to start my own zodiac year. 新年快乐！
This post was written by Ricefield volunteer Laura Matheson.
To see more images from our 2017 Chinese New Year event, please visit our Facebook page.
Watch the video below for a taste of our Chinese New Year event. Video produced by Ricefield volunteer, Jarvis Gray.