Happy New Year 2.0! We like New Years so much that we celebrate it twice a year in China. The western solar New Year is a warm up for the Chinese Lunar New Year. For 2011 the new lunar year officially started as the Sun went down on February 2nd. New Years day is the start of the Spring Festival which is the major holiday in China. Many Chinese take three weeks off to travel home to see their family. Most businesses shut down as the largest population on earth takes a much needed break. For some factory workers this is one of only eleven national holidays that they have throughout their seven-day-a-week year long work schedule.
I spent the New Year in Binzhou, Shandong province visiting a friend's hometown. (I'll write more about this experience later as it was my first trip to China's "countryside". I'm still digesting this life changing experience.) One brilliant aspect of the celebration is the fireworks. Originally fireworks consisted of gunpowder stuffed into bamboo. Once lit the loud explosion would scare away evil spirits. Now they are used to celebrate the New Year and other major occasions, i.e. weddings, store openings, etc.
According to the Lunar Zodiac this is the Year of the Rabbit. (Click here for the BBC's predictions for the Rabbits in your life.) If you were born during the following times then this is your year.
- 29 January 1903 – 15 February 1904: Water Rabbit
- 14 February 1915 – 2 February 1916: Wood Rabbit
- 2 February 1927 – 22 January 1928: Fire Rabbit
- 19 February 1939 – 7 February 1940: Earth Rabbit
- 6 February 1951 – 26 January 1952: Metal Rabbit
- 25 January 1963 – 12 February 1964: Water Rabbit
- 11 February 1975 – 30 January 1976: Wood Rabbit
- 29 January 1987 – 16 February 1988: Fire Rabbit
- 16 February 1999 – 4 February 2000 Earth Rabbit
- 3 February 2011 – 22 January 2012: Metal Rabbit
Happy Chinese New Year to the Rabbits and to all the rest of us in the coming year!