Kolkata: Red envelopes stashed with cash, and colourful dragon and lion dancers streaming in and out of decorated residences here marked the ushering in of the Chinese New Year Sunday with a spirit of renewal and family reunion.
The first day of the Chinese New Year is the most significant day in the Chinese calender, with celebrations lasting 15 days and culminating with the Lantern Festival.
Each year is associated with one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. For 2013, it's the Year of the Water Snake.
"The water snake symbolises quietness and intelligence. It does not attack unless it is provoked. It does not kill. So this year it means that by being quiet and observant, one will find success and good luck," Indian Chinese Association president Paul Chung told IANS.
Kolkata's 4,000 strong Chinese community -- settled mainly in the city's eastern Tangra area and the largest in the country -- celebrated the occasion with a strong emphasis on renewing familial ties amidst the lion and dragon dances to the pulsating beats of drums -- supposed to bring good luck during the year ahead.
"We have lion dancers who entered each house of the community to bring good luck to the household. There were dragon dances too amidst loud drumming. Both lions and dragons are considered auspicious by Chinese," Chung said.
"But our theme is family bonding. It is a time for reunions. If ties within family are well established, then society is well established. We have tried to bring back that part of our culture and we have succeeded," Chung said while explaining that in the run-up to the New Year, everybody had embarked on a cleaning spree a week ago.
One of the customs to strengthen relationships was handing traditional red envelopes filled with cash.
"Adults gave their parents a red envelope filled with cash as a token of good luck. Grandparents handed over cash-filled red envelopes to their grand children as a blessing. This is like a cycle. It strengthens the bonds within our families. Our families are very close knit units," said Chung.
After the festivities quietened down, the families sat together to savour a course of an entire fish specially cooked for the day.
"Fish in Chinese means extra. So you will get everything in extra amounts this year," said Chung.