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Welcome to the year of the rabbit !
(tù nián kuài lè - meaning: “happy year of the rabbit”)
Following the lunar calendar, the Spring Festival 春节 (chūn jié) falls on January 22 and celebrations last 15 days until February 5, but only the first seven days are a public holiday. The new year starts with the new moon 新月(xīn yuè) and ends on a full moon 满月(mǎn yuè) by celebrating the Lantern Festival 元宵节 (yuán xiāo jié) (Zhao, 2022).
Chinese new year celebrations are known to be the world’s largest annual mass migration. Many leave the urban centre to return home in rural locations, a phenomenon known as “reverse migration”. It is also the time for students to return home. As it is one of the most important public holidays in China, families reunite during the once a year public holiday. (Dempsey, 2015).
Chinese officials have calculated over 3 billion passenger trips occur during the celebrations with more travellers compared to available seats on buses and trains. For the celebrations in 2014, China Railway Corporation reported 266 million trips by railway (Dempsey, 2015).
The Lunar New Year is also celebrated in other countries in Asia such as in Vietnam, Japan, Mongolia, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and by the Chinese community living overseas. Known as the biggest festival for China, the tradition follows a schedule before and after January 22 (Zhao, 2022).
On the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, which is on January 14, the family must worship the Kitchen deity, 灶君 (zào jūn), in order to protect the family for the new year. The Kitchen deity reports the activities of every household over the past year to the Jade Emperor, 玉皇大帝 (yù huáng dà dì) in Heaven. The Emperor decides whether or not to reward the family and by worshipping the Kitchen deity with offerings (of food for example), the family will have a good report and start a prosperous new year (He, 2022).
Due to different customs, for northern China this tradition falls on January 14, while for most of southern China the day in which to pray to the Kitchen deity is on the 24th day of the 12th lunar month, January 15 (Cindy, 2022).
On the 24th day of the 12th lunar month, (January 15), house cleaning must be done in order to celebrate in a clean environment and drive away old things while welcoming the new year (He, 2022).
On the 25th day of the 12th lunar month, (January 16), after worshipping the Kitchen deity, the Jade Emperor will come to inspect the mortal world to check if the report from the Kitchen deity is true. In order to show that the report from the Kitchen deity is true, bean curds (also known as tofu), 豆腐 (dòu fu) are eaten to show the Emperor the family does not over-exceed their expenses, thus the Jade Emperor will not punish them (He, 2022).
On the 26th day of the 12th lunar month, (January 17), it is the day to buy meat. In the old days, those living a poor life would only eat pork meat during the festival and the tradition has been kept up to today (He, 2022).
On the 27th day of the 12th lunar month, (January 18), people will buy new clothes, wash all the clothes to remove the bad luck from the previous year and buy fireworks, toys and new things to welcome the new year with new objects (He, 2022).
On the 28th day of the 12th lunar month, (January 19), steamed bread and pasting the paper-cuts are done. Food for the whole celebration is prepared on this day and the tradition is carried on today even if supermarkets or shopping centres remain open (He, 2022).
On the 29th day of the 12th lunar month, (January 20), ancestors are worshipped and on New Year’s Eve (the 30th day of the 12th lunar month, January 21), pictures are pasted on the doors and windows, the family is reunited for dinner and stay up all night, eating and welcoming the New Year on January 22 (He, 2022).
Celebrations for the Chinese New Year 2023 can also start earlier on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month, December 30 2022, with the Laba festival, 腊八 (là bā) marking the beginning of the Spring Festival. The traditions are to pray to ancestors and gods for fortune and successful harvest with the main dishes such as congee 米粥 (mǐ zhōu), tofu 豆腐 (dòu fu) and noodles 面条 (miàn tiáo) (Cindy 2022).
Seven lucky food dishes must be eaten for the New Year: fish 鱼 (yú) for prosperity, dumplings 水饺 (shuǐ jiǎo) for wealth, spring rolls 春卷 (chūn juǎn) for wealth, good fortune fruit 好运果 (hǎo yùn guǒ) for fullness and wealth, sweet rice balls 汤圆 (tāng yuán) for family togetherness, longevity noodles 长寿面 (cháng shòu miàn) for happiness and longevity and glutinous rice cake 年糕 (nián gāo) for a higher income and or position (Cindy, 2022).
Following the legend, the mythical beast Nian 年 (nián) is present on New Year Eve and must be scared away by setting off fireworks, firecrackers, putting red on house doors or using the art of calligraphy to write New Year greetings and wishes on red paper, offering red envelopes. Chinese New Year follows the Chinese zodiac with 12 animals: this year being the rabbit (Zhao, 2022).
Chinese people believe that a person’s horoscope, personality and love compatibility are closely associated with the person’s zodiac sign, determined by the birth year. Each zodiac sign is also associated with one of the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, water 木、火、土、金、水 (mù, huǒ, tǔ, jīn, shuǐ), a colour 颜色 (yán sè) and Yin representing female 阴 (yīn) and Yang representing male 阳 (yáng) . The year 2023 is the year of the yin (female) black water rabbit (Chinese Fortune Calendar, 2022).
The characteristics of a person born the year of the rabbit are cautious, kind, friendly, elegant, artistic, conservative, self-indulgent and compassionate. For a yin water rabbit, its personality is timid, decent, introverted, smart and scheming. But water is connected to danger and the yin water rabbit has other traits such as being gloomy, enduring, conspiring and unmanageable. On the plus side, the yin water is connected to the reincarnations and strong memories, leading to a year of hope (Master Allen Tsai, 2022).
The major energy of the five elements for the year 2023 will be wood as water is the mother element of wood. Yin-water being the heavy rain, the yin-wood energy allows the individual to float, meaning it is a sign of leaving hometown. The yin-wood of the rabbit is associated with grass and grass can survive regardless of the situation but cannot grow too tall, implying the rabbit needs to be guided to reach success and achievements. Linking the rabbit with other zodiac signs, for quick success, the rabbit needs a tiger, dog or a dragon zodiac sign person (Master Allen Tsai, 2022).
On New Year’s day, there is a list of things not to do, such as washing hair as it washes away good luck (it is preferred to wash and cut hair before the new year), no washing of clothes as it washes away good luck, no sweeping and taking out the garbage as it sweeps away health (it is preferred to throw the garbage on the 24th day of the 12th month, the same day of the house cleaning), no needle work as it depletes wealth and no unlucky words written on red paper (Cindy, 2023).
During the Festival celebrations, there are also a few things not to do, such as breaking dishes as it brings bad luck, not giving scissors or knives as they cut the wealth, no lending or borrowing money as it leads to debt, not wearing black or white clothes as they are unlucky colours and no odd amounts of money in the red envelopes as it is unlucky (Cindy, 2023).
Between celebrations and cultural traditions, Chinese New Year 2023 is a national event of international significance.
Prisca Mirchandani holds a trilingual Master’s degree of Global Security and Analysis (French, English, and Chinese) from the University of Bordeaux, France. She is passionate about Chinese language and culture. You can find her on Linkedin.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not represent the views of European Guanxi.
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