Chinese New Year
Chinese Lunar New Year (chunjie, 春节) is one of the most important festivals in the Chinese calendar that starts on the new moon in the lunar cycle – between the 21st of January and the 20thof February each year. In 2019, the lunar new year starts on the 5thof February, and it marks the beginning of the Year of the Pig.
The pig, which is named after the five elements- Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth- is the last of the twelve zodiac animals and symbolises kindness and generosity. According to zodiac legend, the Jade Emperor threw a big party and decided that the order of the animals would be defined by their arrival to his party. The pig was late because it overslept, and so it became the last of all the animals in the zodiac.
The history of Lunar New Year started when ancient Chinese agrarian society counted the cycles of seasons from their planting experience, and the yearly celebration emerged with the creation of the calendar during the Shang Dynasty. The worshiping activities from this period form the current way the festival is celebrated, which include gifting food, clothes and harvest to the ancestors for blessings and peace at the end of each year. Other traditions are hanging red signs with the Chinese character fu, 福(“happiness”) on front doors along with red lanterns.
The Lunar New Year is one of the world’s most celebrated festivals taking place in countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia. The New Year celebrations also results in the largest annual mass human migration in the world. As per the official estimate, the number of trips during chunyunin 2019 is expected to be 0.6 percent higher than 2018, with almost three billion trips to be made between January 21stand March 1st. According to Xinhua News Agency, to account for this mass travel period, China launched 10 new railways at the end of 2018 along with facial recognition software and ticket-less travel systems “to ease congestion and improve passenger movement at train stations.” (Gupta, 2019).
To all readers of the Confucian Weekly Bulletin, we wish you New Year happiness! (Xinnian kuaile, 新年快乐) for 2019.
This year, the Lunar New Year, the year of the dog, will be celebrated by more than 1.5 billion people on February the 16th. The celebration combines religious and secular rites based on the religious-philosophies of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. While preparations begin a week before the celebration begins, the main focus throughout the festivities is spending time with family and friends, enjoying feasts, and gift-giving.
The importance of family and social relationships, especially during the holiday period, is a key theme in Confucianism as three out of the five basic relationships for humans occurs in the family. Cultures throughout the Asian continent, especially in China, encourage individuals to expand the prosperity and vitality of their families since a healthy and harmonious family is believed to build a stable society.
The Confucian value of filiality is not only seen throughout the ancient texts (see the Analects, 2.5 and 2.6 for example), but during New Year celebrations too as rituals and acts are carried out that symbolise paying respects to the elders. These include bowing to parents and grandparents and prioritising serving elders food during large gatherings. Visiting temples is also a common practice as paying respects to one’s ancestors by reciting prayers, lighting incense sticks, and making offerings is thought to be an important part of character development and starting the new year with luck.
Throughout the world, the diaspora from China and other Confucian societies choose to either make the trip back home for the celebrations or celebrate in their host countries. The Confucius institute in Cambodia, for example, holds New Year activities such as watching CCTV’s New Year gala, holding a reunion dinner, giving red envelopes, and setting off firecrackers and fireworks. In Leeds, the Chinese Community School plan to host an orchestra from China to perform traditional Chinese music, song, and dance, while the Art Institute of Chicago is holding an exhibition titled “Mirroring China’s Past: Emperors and their Bronzes” between Feb. 25 and May 13, exhibiting Chinese bronzes of the second and first millennia BC.
However you choose to celebrate, the Confucian Weekly Bulletin wishes you good luck and happiness in the New Year.