2008 is now finally in the past as millions of Chinese people around the world welcomed the Chinese New Year on Monday 26 January. As we waved goodbye to the Year of the Rat, the Year of the Ox was greeted in traditional style with firecrackers, parties and feasts.
As the Chinese word for Ox is pronounced 'Niu' which sounds similar to 'new' in English, but has the meaning of being 'bullish', this pun is interpreted as an auspicious start to the year.
According to Chinese astrology, people born in the Year of the Ox are patient, hardworking and can inspire confidence in others. However, they can be fierce and remarkably stubborn at times.
Traditionally in London, the Chinese New Year celebration is held on the first Sunday after New Year's Day. This year, the mayor of London has promised spectators a rich mixture of live performances, a colourful parade and culinary delights at the famous landmark Trafalgar Square.
Further up in Derry, in Northern Ireland, the celebration arrived early. Locals were treated to calligraphy demonstrations, authentic Chinese tea tasting and a Chinese banquet. The mayor of Derry, Gerard Diver, thought the events were extremely important, not just for the Chinese community, but to everyone in Derry.
“We live on an island, and I sometimes think that we're perhaps not as exposed to different cultures or to different ways of doing things as we should be. This is a valuable opportunity to gain an insight into Chinese culture and traditions, and it's also an important sign of progress,” said Mr Diver.
The global financial crisis has, however, affected celebrations elsewhere in the country. Coventry Community Chinese Association was forced to cancel its plans for the New Year due to lack of funding. Similarly in the south west part of the country, decisions were made to scale down the celebration after a number of sponsors were forced to cut back on financial support.
Despite the setbacks, people are determined to welcome the Niu Year in style and hope the Year of the Ox will bring prosperity through fortitude and hard work.