Blog by Linda Book

<< back to article list

News Article

Why we need Valentine's Day even more this year

Courtesy of Vancouver Sun  Feb 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.