DRAGON BRIDGE: This powerful symbol guards an Andalusian town. / AS

Four ways to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Andalucía

Year of the Tiger. On 1st February the Chinese will be celebrating the start of their new year. One of these Oriental-themed visits may well help you get off on the right foot

ALEKK M. SAANDERS

The Chinese New Year has no fixed date because it always depends on a moon. This year’s Lunar New Year begins on 1 February. There are plenty of traditions and superstitions to follow, all aimed at making sure the year ahead is lucky and prosperous. We suggest four ideas to mark the occasion, or rather to highlight this New Year’s Day with a Chinese touch, and possibly make the Year 2022 luckier.

Visit the Butterfly Park

In China, the butterfly has been a popular symbol for many centuries. The insect is called ‘hu tieh’ in the Mandarin language and translates as ‘seventy years’. Therefore this beautiful insect symbolises eternal love and companionship. The Costa del Sol is famous for its huge concentration of butterflies. The Mariposario de Benalmádena is considered the largest and most spectacular butterfly park in Europe. Additionally, last December, in the fifth edition of the Remarkable Venue Awards it was voted the best attraction in Spain. The park boasts more than 1,500 species of butterfly, housed inside an exotic-looking building with a spectacular Asian-style entrance. Who knows - maybe a visit to the pagoda building of the Mariposario and communication with butterflies will be rewarded later with more love, even eternal...

A hotel in the Malaga neighbourhood of Soho, named after the butterfly, has a Chinese entrance. Although the Mariposa hotel is French styled and with art deco-elements, its main door is ‘guarded’ by two life-size warriors from the Terracotta Army that was constructed to accompany the tomb of China’s First Emperor as an afterlife guard. Passing between two Chinese warriors may well give you more self-confidence for the next year...

Walk across the Dragon Bridge

Dragons are powerful and benevolent symbols in Chinese culture. They are associated with imperial power, good fortune, and enhancing a pioneering spirit. So it is no surprise that in China dragons are looked upon with affection - in legends, festivals, astrology, art and even names. In Andalucía the dragon guards a bridge.

If you head towards Seville, to the small town of Alcalá de Guadaíra, you will find a very unusual bridge called Puente del Dragón (the Dragon Bridge). It is 123 metres long and connects two banks of the Guadaíra River. The bridge indeed emulates a dragon that ‘emerges’ from the Castle Hill at the foot of one of the largest Almohad fortresses in Europe. The dragon is considered the guardian of the castle and the defender of the town. It means that the Andalusian dragon is akin to the Chinese one, and not evil, dangerous, or fire-breathing, as it is depicted in most European stories.

The Andalusian dragon is mosaic-decorated in the trencadís technique - cemented-together tile shards and broken chinaware. The Dragon Bridge was created by José Luis Manzanares and was apparently inspired by the famous architect Antonio Gaudí and in particular by his dragon that decorates one of the fountains in Park Güell in Barcelona. Crossing the Dragon Bridge in Alcalá de Guadaíra might become a seasonal custom for bringing good fortune into the New Year...

Come across the Doñana lynx

The Dragon is just one of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals. Each year is dedicated to either a domesticated or a wild animal. 2022 is the year of the Tiger resting in the water element, or rather the Water Tiger. The tiger in general represents the masculine principle in nature and is king of all the animals.

To find a tiger in Andalucía is not easy, but it is possible to come across its ‘brother’ - the Iberian lynx that inhabits the park of Doñana, surrounded with much water. If lynxes, which survived in Yorkshire until the sixth century, were known as Britain’s little lions, in Huelva province the lynx is sometimes compared to a little tiger. In keeping with the Chinese tiger, the local lynx has incited a sense of both awe and admiration for its prowess, ferocity, and beauty.

Eat some lucky food

“Happy Chinese New Year!” has been quite often proclaimed in Marbella. Among others, Casino Marbella used to organise a colourful celebration. It appears this year the epicentre of Chinese New Year will be in Sotogrande.

The newly opened restaurant Fresco in Puerto de Sotogrande is organising a special banquet to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The special menu offers seafood and meat in accordance with the Chinese tradition.

“Although we are celebrating the Chinese New Year for the first time, we already intend to make it an annual tradition. We are aware that certain dishes are eaten during the Chinese New Year, for their symbolic meaning. Our chef, Guillermo Collado, is preparing a special menu. Chinese New Year is also known as Spring Festival, so Chinese spring rolls will be served on the table. Besides a seafood dish we will offer guests different types of meat - chicken, beef and lamb. Not only do the dishes themselves matter, but also the preparation, and ways of serving and eating mean a lot. So we will try to pay attention to every detail on our banquet,” the restaurant manager, Javier Novelles, told SUR in English.

Probably though, lucky food in any Chinese restaurant on the Costa del Sol or at a special New Year’s banquet would be a good Chinese start to 2022.