As the clock struck 12, and February 10 dawned, the Chinese community in the city burst firecrackers and wished each other Xin Nian Kuai Le! – Happy New Year!

Even as millions across the world flew home to celebrate the Chinese New Year, in Chennai, the beginning of a fresh year was marked by quiet parties.

Gu Peizheng, 27, born in Jiangsu, came to Chennai in 2009 to pursue his masters in commerce and is now employed in the Chennai Metro Rail work project.

“Of course, it is not a great feeling to be away from your hometown. But we try to make the best out of what is available to us with some good Chinese food and wine,” Mr. Peizheng said. Nearly 50 Chinese nationals are among those building the Metro Rail.

Back home at Jiangsu, Gu Peizheng recollects, the celebrations are on for a week beginning February 10. On this day, the entire family gets together, eats their favourite dish, dumplings, and watches TV. For the next two days, children visit their maternal and paternal grandparents and receive Ya Sui Qian, or money that spreads good luck.

“In the first two years, it was quite boring to celebrate it here but now, the Chinese population has increased considerably so it is better,” he added.

Unlike Gu Peizheng though, Huang Ping, also working on the Metro Rail got lucky – his wife Kang Xinran has just arrived from Hunan province with their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Huang Xiaomeng, to begin the New Year with him.

In addition to those working on the Metro Rail, the city is home to a number of Chinese people, including students and professionals employed in manufacturing companies.

Born in Jiao Zuo, 22-year-old Wang Chao, an engineering student who is here at IIT-Madras under a student exchange programme said she decided to come here after watching ‘Three Idiots’. “I loved the movie. So, when I got the opportunity to participate in the exchange programme, I grabbed it,” she said.

She too, misses being home during the celebration. “If I were there, I might have worn Qi Pao, our traditional dress. I am also craving home food but I can’t cook since I don’t have a gas connection, vessels or ingredients here. So, dinner at a Chinese restaurant seems like a decent option,” she added.

Chinese restaurants in the city spruced up their menu for the occasion, with several exotic dishes. Nagarajan Rubinath, general manager of The Cascade restaurant said, “We offered a special festive menu which included crackling chicken rollswhole crab in butter garlic, five-spiced lamb and strawberries with double chocolate.”

Similarly Mainland China, another popular restaurant, had dishes like steamed fish and tofu dumplings, crispy fried mushrooms with lemon sauce, braised fish with cinnamon and Ee Fy noodles.