On the 12th of February 2022, The Chinese Association (TCA) hosted the annual Chinese New Year and Lantern Festival to commemorate the Year of the Tiger.
This is was an especially momentous celebration because it was the first time in two years that the Association could host an ‘in person’ event due to Covid and the strict Lockdown regulations. (In 2020 and 2021, the event took place online via streaming).

Because there are still certain public restrictions for outdoor events, Mr Erwin Pon, the Chairman of TCA wanted to mark this occasion in a safe environment, where people could relax, still adhere to the regulations and feel safe.

An idea that started off as a 50 person lunch/dinner, expanded into a greater vision, so that the community could celebrate properly in an open, outdoor area – this is what sparked the idea to host the event at the Sacred Heart College; it was the ideal outdoor venue that could easily host a few thousand people, limiting it to 25% of the maximum capacity. Everyone who attended had to register on an electronic system that issued them with tickets and all strict Covid protocols were implemented during the event.

The event was also attended by esteemed leaders from the community with speeches given by Ms. Heather Blanckensee (Head of Sacred Heart College), Mr. Michael Sun (MMC in Johannesburg for Environment Infrastructure), Mr. Sello Hatang (CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation) and Mr. Erwin Pon (Chairman of The Chinese Association).

I spoke to Mr Pon about the significance of the Year of Tiger, as well as why they were adamant to make this particular celebration completely inclusive; with people from all communities coming together to celebrate the new year.

The idea, as Mr Pon mentions, was to celebrate the Chinese culture within South Africa and make it all inclusive because “being in South Africa, you are not just one or the other, you are everything”.

“We want to share our culture”.

The Chinese community have been in South Africa for almost 120 years (next year is the 120th anniversary), and as much as they are proud of their heritage, they are also proud to be South African. This is the very reason the entertainment on the day of the festival was a mixture of Chinese and Western dance, music, etc. The event had over 25 different food, game, and various stalls, with over four hours of live entertainment; from Lion and Dragon dancing to belly dancers and singers, to a Tai Chi demonstration, and even Scottish dancing. The main event of the evening was the fireworks display by Starburst Pyrotechnics.

“The Chinese tradition is about unity, and tradition – the stickiness that is community” says Pon “this is the very reason we eat Chinese food, like dumplings which symbolise togetherness, due to the sticky nature of the food”.

The Chinese Association had a desire to celebrate this year with the South African community as a whole, and the sold out event was truly successful. May The Year of the Tiger bring lots of success and blessings to everyone.

To listen to the full interview with the Chairman of The Chinese Association, Mr Erwin Pon, click on the link: