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Muff woman gets home for Chinese New Year 06.02.08

by Simon McGeady, Inishowen Independent

SPRING Festival; it’s the biggest celebration in the Chinese calendar, one that sees millions of people from all over the world go home to be with their loved ones.
Last week, Muff Chinese woman Vivian Mackey and her husband Raymond made the long journey from Inishowen to a village outside the central Chinese city of Xi’an to ring in the Year of the Rat next Sunday night.
It’s the first time since coming to Ireland that Vivian, a former Inishowen Community Radio presenter, has made it home for this national holiday.
“It’s a special time of year for Chinese people. It the biggest holiday of the year, a bit like Christmas for people in Ireland. I go home once a year, but this is the first time I’ve been back for the Spring Festival since I came over to Ireland.”
On Chinese New Year’s Eve it’s traditional for natives of that country to get together with their families and make dumplings. A coin is hidden in one of the dumplings and whoever bites into it is blessed with good fortune for the following year.
Vivan and Raymond Mackey pictured in China.
“Because the quality of life is rising in China many people go out to huge banquets that cost between €60 euro to €6000 per head. This year our family are going to a banquet, but the main reason is my grandmother getting old and we don’t want to worry about her having to cook,” added Vivian.
Many Irish people living in China join in the celebrations. One such expat is Moville man Derek Doherty, who moved to Beijing in 2002.
“In China it's not just the night of New Year's Eve that they celebrate. There are different celebrations over a two-week period, with fireworks every night.
There'll be lots of food, some karaoke and then around midnight lots of fireworks. It's all about having bigger and better fireworks than your neighbour. The fireworks are to scare away evil spirits.
"Lots of toasts are made, mostly wishing each other great fortune in the New Year. Chinese New Year's eve is the equivalent of our Christmas and so it's very important to be with your family. Travelling at this time of year is crazy because there is about a half a billion people on the move; millions of people clearing out of the big cities back to the countryside.”
The 32 year old, who works at the Swedish embassy, estimates there are about 150 Irish nationals living in the city. People born in the Year of the Rat are said to be charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking.
“If you were born in the Year of the Rat, then this year could be either very good for you or very bad. To protect yourself from bad luck, wear lots of red things. Red socks are very popular this time of year,” Doherty said.
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