If you can’t read that (I can’t either without help) I’ll translate for you – Happy New Year! Tomorrow begins the Lunar New Year celebrations throughout the Asian world. If you’re an ugly American as even the most sensitive of us sometimes are, you’ve called it Chinese New Year for most if not all of your life, if you called it anything, Out in the real world, the Lunar New Year celebrations stretch back to the second century BC during the Han Dynasty. The “Chinese calendar” that begins time with this new year is a lunisolar calendar based on the moon’s cycles or phases in addition to our solar orbit. (A true lunar calendar based solar on the phases of the moon spans 354 days rather than the 365 days it takes to completely orbit the sun – give or take so additional adjustments are made not unlike the quadrennial habit of tossing in leap day.)
The Lunar New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, this year on our February 12 and marks the beginning of year 4718, the year of the Ox (or Buffalo, Bull, or Cow). Over 2 billion people from mainland China to Brunei, more than a quarter of the world’s population will celebrate the turning of that calendar page . The greeting I began this post is in Vietnamese where the celebration westerners call Tet will begin with a day devoted to the immediate family. (“Tet” translates to “Festival”) The lunar new year celebrations can last up to 14 days ranging to the first full moon after the new year. For as many cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year there are that many variations on the celebrations. In Vietnam Tết Nguyên Đán (Festival of the First Morning of the First Day) may last only 3 days.
We would do well to emulate the Asian cultures celebrating this new year. Unlike the western new year the Lunar New Year is not marked with discounts on mattresses and major appliances., there won’t be insincere promises to resolve to do better, be better, live better for the next 12 hours or until the first sign of temptation comes along, and the first morning won’t be welcomed with a hangover headache from over celebrating on the eve of the day most likely to be on the road with a drunk driver. Lunar New Year celebrations typically revolve around family: the immediate, the extended, and the helpers. Traditions likely include sharing tokens of good luck and prosperity and homes brightly decorated and filled with scent of long held traditional family foods. Think of Thanksgiving without Black Friday mixed in with a little Christmas and a bit of the Fourth of July (fireworks, everything is better with fireworks!).
If you’re looking for a reason to celebrate this weekend and you’re not already one of the aforementioned 2 billion, grab the ox by the horns, gather round the family, and wish each other long life, good health, and prosperity to all!