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Observance of the Lunar New Year honours the family and offers good wishes for the future

January 25, 2009

Vancouver Sun
Saturday, January 24, 2009
 
If you've promised yourself that you'll never again overdo it like you did this past New Year's, you might not want to hear this.
 
Then again, if you're lamenting the fact that you've already broken all of your New Year's resolutions, this is just what you need to hear.
 
For it's that time of year again: New Year's. Sure, the first day of the Gregorian calendar has come and gone, but for those who follow the lunar calendar -- which is much of the world -- the year begins on Jan. 26.
 
The Lunar New Year, which is often called the Chinese New Year, is one of the most important holidays in many countries, including China, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet and Mongolia.
 
The Chinese celebration, known as the Spring Festival, is the largest such celebration in the world, and is also observed in many countries with significant Chinese populations, including Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
 
In China, the Spring Festival 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 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 for seven days, which 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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