The International Buddhist Temple celebrated the Chinese New Year of the Golden Boar from February 15th to 19th. As it is the last year in the twelve-year Chinese zodiac cycle, following the Year of the Dog, the Boar symbolizes rebirth and growth. On New Year’s Eve, the temple’s opening hours were extended into the night, closing past midnight instead of the usual 5:30 PM. Thousands of people came to participate in the festivities and make offerings of incense and flowers to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Many visitors especially hoped to be among the first to light incense for the Buddhas on New Year’s Day, which landed on Sunday the 18th this year. It is a common belief among worshippers and common people alike that being the one to place the first stick of incense into the burner, before dawn, is to show the greatest merit, and bring about the most blessings from the Buddhas for the remaining year. It is thought that the first prayer uttered would be the first to be answered. As such, large numbers of visitors were gathered at the temple through the night, waiting to receive the first day of the lunar year with bouquets of incense.
During the period of celebration, the Venerable Guan Cheng and other members of the Sangha held a special ceremony in the mornings, during which they chanted and paid homage to each Buddha and Bodhisat
The colours red and gold shone and glittered from every corner. They are usually regarded as lucky colours, and bright red is also traditionally used for the New Year’s to ward off evils. Streams of people flowed through the temple grounds, stopping first at the incense booths in the parking lot to purchase packets of red and gold incense, of which more than a dozen types were available. Visitors everywhere could be seen holding bouquets of incense. In the classical Chinese garden, visitors patiently waited for their chance to dip their hands into the Fountain of Wisdom, and taste its purifying waters. Within the front courtyard, there were booths selling colourful pinwheels of various sizes and patterns, and other festive decorations to put up at home and in the car. Pinwheels are said to “turn” the luck of the owner as they spin, and each piece featured gold-coloured fastenings and a red square – standing on point – bearing a special, auspicious greeting for the New Year. Children and adults alike were drawn over by the pinwheels turning cheerfully in the breeze.
The flower market on the first floor of the Meditation Hall was also a busy place, brimming with plants and flowers, both in pots and bouquets. Visitors could bring home such things as lucky bamboo, graceful pussy-willow branches, and kumquat or miniature orange trees – the latter being commonly associated with Chinese New Year’s because “orange” and “luck” sound similar in the Chinese language. There were also jadeware, crystals, bead bracelets, as well as other beautiful gift items. In the main hall, the cafeteria provided hungry visitors with vegetarian lunches and New Year’s snacks.
A large number of volunteers pitched in to help the temple make New Year’s a success. A crew from the local Cantonese television station came to document the festivities and interview various people. The report aired during their Sunday evening news. Many people have remarked that there were more visitors this year than the last, and hopefully the same will be said about the next year’s celebration at the International Buddhist Temple.