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Chinese New Year

Saturday at midnight this coming weekend represents the start of the Chinese New Year. So why isn't it January first? This is the LUNAR new year. It doesn't mean there's a full moon in the sky. Quite the opposite. A new moon is between the earth and the sun, so we don't see much of it illuminated by the sun. A full moon is when the earth is between the sun and moon meaning we see the full moon illuminated by the sun. The new moon that happens between January 21 and February 20 starts the traditional Chinese calendar.

Most residents here don't call it Chinese New Year. They call it spring festival. It marks the end of traditional winter and start of spring. Every new year has one of twelve animals associated with the new year. This coming year is the year of the rabbit, which of course means there's bunnies all over the place and incorporated into all the decorations. I was born in 1969 (rooster). Every twelve years gets to be my year. Here you go, find yours.

There are several traditional things that happen during this big celebration. The biggest of these is a large family meal today (January 21) on Chinese New Years Eve. It has a similar feel to a traditional Thanksgiving day feast back in the states.

The second item is a lot of fireworks. Traditionally these fireworks serve a major function for Chinese residents, to scare away Nian. According to legend, this dragon-lion monster would attack villagers and sometimes eat children but was frightened by loud noises. Nian also does not like the color red, which means lunar new year revelers will be decked out in red. Apparently the Chinese government has cracked down on fireworks in the cities, but I haven't seen that. I've heard a lot of fireworks over the past week. This is what I saw next to the river tonight.

Red is not just used to scare legendary monsters. In traditional and even contemporary Chinese culture, red is equated with happiness and prosperity. If it is your Zodiac year, you should wear an abundance of red to protect against bad luck. For those who do not like red as an outer garment, the Chinese sell red underwear. Glad I have my red shoes. Also, red envelopes are a big deal. It's basically a red greeting card stuffed full of cash.

The holiday lasts for a couple of weeks. Traditionally on the fifteeenth day of the new year we get to see the Lantern Festival. I don't know much about it, but it sounds cool. I'll share more details as we get closer. Lots of other Asian countries celebrate this same holiday, but some use another name. In Vietnam they call it Tet. Remember the Tet offense from the war? Yeah, same holiday.

Final note on the holiday. Coming back to the apartment after the fireworks we saw two different groups of people burning papers on the side of the streets. I'm not sure of the details here, but I believe it has something to do with starting fresh in the new year. I need to research that one.

In other news I've got a week before I have to go back to work. I'm not going to just sit on the couch and watch TV. I'm heading to Shanghai for a day to check it out. Hotel reserved and bullet train experience awaits.

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Jan 21, 2023

To confuse the issue the calendar is also divided into Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire. IIRC I was born in the year of the Wood Dragon, which only comes around once every 60 years. Oh and by the way, since it's a lunar calendar it doesn't always fall on the same day. It can vary as much as two or three weeks. Do the Chinese celebrate the same day each year for convenience or does it float?

Jan 22, 2023
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Oops, I think I just outed my age. 🙄

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