Wednesday 2 February 2011

Festival of the Week: Chinese New Year

Tomorrow, February 3, is the start of Chinese New Year - the Year of the Rabbit.

Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival, is the main annual Chinese festival and is not a religious event. The Chinese calendar has a cycle of 12 years named after animals, much like the signs of the zodiac.

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are thought to be creative, compassionate and sensitive to the needs of others. The are outgoing and enjoy the company of friends and family. Rabbits deal with conflict calmly and try to diffuse arguments with consideration and understanding.

However, The Chinese word for rabbit (兔) can also be translated as hare - which is a bit of a trickster character. Bugs Bunny or Br'er Rabbit, both famous for getting out of difficult situation by using guile and trickery, could be the kind of rabbit archetype to emulate if you want to achieve the most this year.

Hopefully the Year of the Rabbit will see diplomacy used to good effect in conflicts throughout the world so that 2011 will be more peaceful and harmonious than 2010, but we may also need to employ the skills of the trickster hare to turn around the most intransigent parties and resolve bitter, longstanding disputes.

The Chinese New Year always falls at a new moon - a good time to clear out the old and usher in the new. In China, people clean their houses in the run-up to the New Year, to sweep out bad luck.

New Year's Eve marks the start of the celebration and tonight Chinese families will have a special meal. On New Year's Day, people give presents of money to their children. They are handed out in red packets, called Hong Bao. It is a day of goodwill and visiting friends and neighbours. The end of the New Year is marked by the Festival of Lanterns with singing, dancing and lantern shows.

This Sunday, 6 February, London will be celebrating Chinese New Year with a huge festival including entertainment, stalls, food, a traditional lion dance and fireworks. This will take place in Trafalgar Square, Chinatown and Shaftesbury Avenue, Central London, W1, from 11am to 6pm. This is a free, public event so just turn up and have fun.


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