Enter the Dragon

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Time to spring-clean the house and sweep away ill-fortune – Chinese New Year 2012 ushers in the auspicious Year of the Dragon.

While most of us already celebrated New Year’s over a week ago, almost a fifth of the world’s population are still waiting for the big day.

Chinese families across the world are busy preparing dumplings, getting hair-cuts, scrubbing every nook and cranny, and stocking up on treats in the lead-up to the biggest celebration of the year.

The Lunar New Year is celebrated in a big way in mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Chinatowns across the world. But few westerners realise that it also plays an important role in many other Asian cultures. Koreans focus on family during their three-day Solnal. Thais celebrate the Lunar New Year with a water-splashing ritual, the Vietnamese observe Tet Nguyen Dan with gifts of cake and money, and the Hmong people sing courting songs in a month-long matchmaking festival.

Red knickers for luck

Many Asian countries interpret the lunar calendar differently, so celebration dates vary. India kicks off Diwali around late October and Cambodia enters Chaul Chnam Thmey in mid-April. But for most of Asia, the Lunar New Year falls on January 23rd, starting a fifteen-day celebration ending with the full moon on February 7th.

Much like Christmas in the West, Chinese New Year is a time for lavish family dinners, reaffirming bonds and exchanging gifts, or “lucky money” in decorative red envelopes.

Doors are painted red and decorated with red and gold chunlian (paper couplets) to bring good luck. Red is considered a lucky colour because the Chinese word for “red” also means “prosperous” – hence the Chinese obsession with wearing red underwear around the Lunar New Year.

In with a mighty roar

In Chinese astrology, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, but not just any old dragon – it is the Yang Water Dragon, which comes around once every 60 years.

To westerners the dragon often represents a malicious, damsel-terrorising beast, but in Chinese culture it is a revered symbol of power, prosperity and good fortune. Combined with water – a symbol of wealth – the dragon augurs an excellent year for business. But beware: the unpredictable dragon has a temper that flares up unexpectedly.

So how can you stay on the fiery Dragon’s good side in 2012? Wear red knickers over the coming weeks. And don’t sweep the house or shampoo your hair on January 23rd – it will wash your good luck away.

Finnair flies cargo to numerous Asian destinations where Chinese New Year is a public holiday, including Chongqing (from May 2012), Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul and Singapore. The lead-up to Chinese New Year is traditionally a peak period for travel and business.

Text by Silja Kudel
Photo by iStockphoto 

Published January 10, 2012

Category: Local features

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