Tuesday 5 February 2019 marks the beginning of the new lunar year. This year will be the Year of the Pig, as the twelfth and final year in the lunar cycle!
Also known as Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, or Chunjie (China); Tet (Vietnam); Seollal (Korea); or Losar (Tibet), Lunar New Year is celebrated by about 1.5 billion people around the world!
Lunar New Year Around the World
Chinese New Year is China’s most important traditional festival, celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. Chinese New Year can begin anytime between late January and mid-February.
However, people from all across Asia observe the Lunar New Year – China, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, The Philippines, and more. Many people from these countries, or with this heritage, travel long distances to visit family for this holiday.
In each country, festivities and traditions differ. Many cultures celebrate with:
- Lucky money envelopes (or lai see, ang bao, hong bao, or li xi)
- Symbolic foods (think: dumplings, rice cake soup, whole steamed fish, moon cakes, and fruits)
- Traditional dress
- Prayers to ancestors
- Lion and dragon dances
The Story Behind the Lunar New Year
The lunar calendar has a 12-year cycle, following the moon phases, or synodic (lunar) months. Because of the Earth’s constant orbit around the Sun, the Moon must travel slightly more than 360 degrees to reach the next new moon.
The sidereal month (the time it takes for the Moon to orbit 360° around the Earth in a ‘fixed’ circuit) is shorter than the lunar or synodic month. The synodic month measures the actual moon phases; i.e. from one next moon to the next.
Thus, the dates of the holiday will differ slightly each year, beginning any time between 21 January and 20 February.
The most widely recognised and used calendar worldwide is the Gregorian calendar, dating back to 1582; the time of Pope Gregory XIII. The Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar system that originally evolved out of a lunar calendar system.
Each lunar year is represented by one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.
Legend has it that the Jade Emperor in China held a race to assign the 12 spots in the zodiac to 12 animals. The animals arrived in this order: rat, ox/buffalo, tiger, rabbit (cat in Vietnam), dragon, snake, horse, goat/sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.
According to different stories, the pig is presumed to have arrived last because he overslept…or because a wolf destroyed his house.
But it’s not all bad news for the pig!
What’s in Store This Year?
According to the zodiac, this particular year will be protected by the sign of the Pig, together with its associated element of Earth (tǔ [土]) – the most grounding, stable element.
Of the five elements of Chinese cosmology (metal, water, wood, fire, and earth), Earth is the deepest and most harmonising. This should ensure balance and consistency throughout the coming year.
As we enter the final year of the moon cycle, this is the time to examine and reflect on past years and cultivate our energy and outlook for the next cycle, arriving on 25 January 2020.
To all our Pig friends, this is your year! In Chinese culture, pigs symbolise wealth and prosperity, and those born in the year of the Pig are blessed with good fortune.
The Chinese Horoscope predicts joy and ephemeral, year-long energy. It also, however, warns against ‘overabundance’ with spending and self-indulgence. To be wary of also is people who may enter your life with the wrong intentions.
The Pig’s benevolence, pragmatism, and zest for life will be felt across 2019. Meanwhile, the Earth element in its Yin polarity (from Yin & Yang, see: Taoism) represents organisation, availability for others, flexibility, modesty and intuition.
As a result, acts of love and generosity – such as teaching, philanthropy, and spirituality – will characterise this new year.
Most recent years of the Pig are 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, and 2007.
For the purpose of fashion, art and feng shui (the ancient Chinese science of respecting energy forces (qi) to harmonise humans and objects within spaces) the lucky colours this year are red and white.
So, as a warm welcome to the new lunar year, may we all say:
春节快乐 – Happy Spring Festival! (Mandarin)
恭喜发财 – Wishing You Wealth and Prosperity (Cantonese)
Chúc mừng năm mới – Happy New Year (Vietnamese)