Greeks join Chinese community in Athens in big celebration for Chinese New Year

09:01, February 15, 2010      

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The central Kotzia square, just opposite to the grandiose Athens City Hall, was turned into a small "Chinese corner" on Sunday, as the Chinese community in Greece, joined by thousands of Greeks, celebrated the Chinese Lunar New Year with a magnificent and colorful event.

For the first time in Greece, Chinese expatriates hosted an open party to celebrate the Spring Festival, which this year coincided with Valentine's Day and the end of carnival in Greece, their "second mother country" as they described.

Greek kung fu students perform lion dance during a celebration for the Chinese New Year in Athens, Greece, on Feb. 14, 2010. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

"Spring and Harmony -- One Family, One Love" was the main title of the festivities that brought together thousands of Chinese who work hard and live peacefully in Athens for years and enthusiastic Greeks who wished their new friends "Kali Hronia," which means " Happy New Year" in Greek.

Under red lanterns and drawings of Chinese zodiac signs hanging high, Greeks and Chinese enjoyed together a four-hour event which included performances of Greek and Chinese folk music and dances, Tai Ji and Kong Fu presentations, as well as recitation of poems on Spring, friendship and love.

Representatives of the Chinese community in Greece present to Mayor of the City of Athens Nikitas Kaklamanis an honorary banner for his hospitality during a celebration for the Chinese New Year in Athens, Greece, on Feb. 14, 2010. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

"I thank Greeks for their warm hospitality and I wish Athens and Greece, the birthplace of western civilization, every success and progress in this New Year," said the Chinese ambassador to Greece, Luo Linquan, while addressing the gathering.

"I wish 2010 will bring hope, love and development to both people," Mayor of the City of Athens Nikitas Kaklamanis said in his address, stressing that friendship and cooperation between Greece and China, two cradles of civilizations in the eastern and western world, flourishes through centuries in the benefit of all.

The mayor and the ambassador exchanged wishes in Greek and Chinese and kicked off the event by drawing the eyes of the "lions " of the International Shaolin Kong Fu Federation School of Thessaloniki, who performed the traditional lion dance, spreading joy, and hopefully good luck and happiness to the audience.

Greek kung fu students give a performance during a celebration for the Chinese New Year in Athens, Greece, on Feb. 14, 2010. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

The aim of the whole event was after all, as Xu Weichun, president of the Trade and Commerce Chamber of Chinese in Greece, explained, that Chinese living in Greece will have an opportunity to share with their Greek friends the joy of the coming of spring and new year and express to Greek society a deep gratitude for a warm welcome to Chinese.

Many Athenians attending the party were amazed at the expression of love by the Chinese people toward Greece and Greek civilization.

"Our Chinese friends are full of pleasant surprises. Never in my life would I thought that in the center of Athens I could see Chinese ladies sing Greek folk songs and perform folk dances with such passion," Maria Evangelou, a Greek elementary school teacher, told Xinhua.

Businessman Giorgos Konstantinopoulos, a few steps further, was deeply touched by the Chinese community's initiative to donate all the money raised through a lottery to a local center for homeless people. "It is so funny to realize that Chinese people are so similar to Greeks. Full of life and caring, they support fellow citizens in need," he said.

Young Tina and Gianna, high school students from Piraeus port, were so excited with the Chinese sounds, food and philosophy they encountered for the first time this Sunday noon, that they are thinking about attending the Business Confucius Institute in Athens to learn more about the language and the culture of China.

Nine year old Andreas, who was dressed as a pirate for the carnival, felt sorry he didn't wear a tiger costume. "I heard today that Chinese celebrate the year of the tiger in 2010 and that tiger is the symbol of strength. Much better than a pirate! Maybe next year. Kali Hronia!"

Source: Xinhua
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