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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Why we need Valentine's Day even more this year

February 15, 2010

The Vancouver Sun (Canada)
February 14, 2010

February 14 is always a special day for people in
the West, marking as it does the feast of St.
Valentine. Valentine's Day has become much more
than a religious observance however, and takes on
special meaning for lovers and those looking for
love, not to mention for florists and shopkeepers.

But this year, Feb. 14 will be extra-special.
That's because the parts of the world that
observe a lunisolar calendar -- and that is much
of the world -- will also be celebrating New Year's.

The Lunar New Year is perhaps most famously
associated with China and is often simply
referred to as the Chinese New Year. And indeed,
New Year's in China is a major celebration.

The Spring Festival, as it is commonly called,
lasts 15 days, with feasts, family reunions, and
the conspicuous use of the colour red (Chinese
New Year red envelopes are a common sight across
Canada and elsewhere.) Red is popular because,
according to legend, it was used to scare away a beast that preyed upon humans.

In the Chinese Zodiac, this is the Year of the
Tiger, and the tiger, of course, connotes
bravery. The ancient Chinese admired the tiger
for its courage and fearlessness, and believed it
kept away the three main tragedies of the household: Fire, thieves and ghosts.

That could bode well for the coming year, since
our world has faced many tragedies and hardships of late.

We ought to remember, however, that the Lunar New
Year is not merely a Chinese celebration. Indeed,
it is a major holiday across much of Asia.

In Korea, the holiday of Solnal is celebrated for
three days, during which children put on
traditional clothes called hanbok and give thanks
to their elders and ancestors.

Feasts and gift-giving are also important parts
of the holiday, as are various activities
designed to scare away evil spirits, including
the beating of loud drums and gongs and the burning of bamboo.

In Vietnam, the holiday of Tet Nguyen Dan (Feast
of the First Morning) also lasts three days, and
similarly involves family reunions, the purchase
of new clothes, substantial dinners and
firecrackers. As in China, lucky children receive
red envelopes, usually containing money.

The Tibetan holiday of Losar, is, like the
Chinese Spring Festival, a 15-day affair. Losar,
which is thousands of years old and predates
Buddhism, also involves dinners and family
reunions, as well as offerings to the Dalai Lama.
It is also celebrated in Bhutan, and in Buddhist areas of India.

On the first day of the Mongolian New Year,
Tsagaan Sar, children pay homage to their senior
relatives, with the most honoured receiving
scarves. Kinship remains the focus of the
festival, which lasts seven days and is also
marked by various shamanistic rituals.

New Year's celebrations across Asia therefore go
by many different names, and involve different and unique traditions.

But common to all of them is the respect shown to
family members, and well-wishing for the future.
And those are things worth celebrating any time of year.
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