Sat | Apr 13, 2024

Year of the Rabbit – longevity, peace and prosperity

Published:Sunday | January 22, 2023 | 12:17 AMFeng Lei - Contributor - -
A man pulls a child past a Lunar New Year decoration on display at the Qianmen pedestrian shopping street, a popular tourist spot in Beijing.
A man pulls a child past a Lunar New Year decoration on display at the Qianmen pedestrian shopping street, a popular tourist spot in Beijing.
A couple take a selfie with their toddler in front of Lunar New Year decorations at a public park in Beijing.
A couple take a selfie with their toddler in front of Lunar New Year decorations at a public park in Beijing.
This combination of image shows bakes goods, from left, Year of the Rabbit milk bread, a two-tier Lunar New Year cake with a Year of the Rabbit theme, and a sourdough boule with an illustration of Miffy, a rabbit from a popular Dutch picture book series.
This combination of image shows bakes goods, from left, Year of the Rabbit milk bread, a two-tier Lunar New Year cake with a Year of the Rabbit theme, and a sourdough boule with an illustration of Miffy, a rabbit from a popular Dutch picture book series.
Two new year gift boxes of traditional pastries at a bakery in Beijing, China.
Two new year gift boxes of traditional pastries at a bakery in Beijing, China.
Children practice their dragon dance routines for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations outside the Hok Lay Kiong temple in Bekasi, Indonesia.
Children practice their dragon dance routines for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations outside the Hok Lay Kiong temple in Bekasi, Indonesia.
Cofounder Donna Li makes a rabbit grass cake at the Bunny Style Hotel in Hong Kong.
Cofounder Donna Li makes a rabbit grass cake at the Bunny Style Hotel in Hong Kong.
Visitors tour a shopping alley near the Houhai Lake displaying lanterns and Lunar New Year decorations in Beijing.
Visitors tour a shopping alley near the Houhai Lake displaying lanterns and Lunar New Year decorations in Beijing.
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If you are born in the year of the rabbit (2023, 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939, 1921…), good for you, and lucky for you! You must be a person with wit, prudence, skills, longevity, virtue and ambition, but you might also be secretive, reserved, melancholic, selfish, and complicated.

In terms of the marriage, a ‘rabbit’ will be happy if s/he marries a ‘sheep’ and or a ‘pig’, but definitely not a ‘rooster’. Suitable career fields for a ‘rabbit’ include medicine, law, agriculture, etc.

No one is exactly sure how much truth is in these descriptions and predictions, and how seriously people are taking them. The topic of how one’s birthyear affects his or her personality and fate might have been discussed or even researched for many years.

Anyway, at the turn of the year, everyone whose birth year is the rabbit is blessed with good wishes. All good characteristics - gentle, quiet, humble, polite, patient, kind and full of sense of responsibility - of the rabbit are used to describe them:

The Spring Festival, which falls on Jan 22, 2023, is the most important festival of the year. To celebrate it, relatively fixed customs and habits have been formed. Some typical activities include:

CLEANING

Cleaning, traditionally a thorough one, starts from a week before the Lunar New Year’s Day. Sweeping dust means “removing old and bringing forth new”, and its purpose is to sweep out all ill luck. This custom is entrusted with the hope to destroy the old and establish the new, as well as bid farewell to the old and welcome the new.

PASTING SPRING FESTIVAL COUPLETS

With black or gold characters on red paper, a typical Spring Festival couplet has three parts: two vertical lines and the horizontal scroll. The lines are pasted on both sides of a door or gate, and the scroll, which is much shorter, is pasted above the door. It should be noted that the two lines always have an equal number of characters and similar structures. The Spring Festival couplets are a unique literary form in China. The content usually expresses good wishes for the coming year, and pasting the couplets add a festive atmosphere to the household.

THE CHARACTER “FU” (GOOD FORTUNE) UPSIDE-DOWN

The same time the Spring Festival couplets are pasted, the characters ‘Fu’ are also pasted on the doors or walls. The word ‘Fu’ refers to blessing and luck, and it expresses people’s yearning for a happy life and wishes for a better future. In order to fully reflect this yearning and wish, some people simply paste the word ‘Fu’ upside down (the word means ‘arrive’ in Chinese), which implies “happiness or blessing has arrived” .

STAYING UP LATE

Staying up late on the New Year’s Eve is one of the most important annual activities. The custom has a long history. In ancient times, there are two meanings of staying up late until it is past midnight: the elders keep the old age, which means to cherish the time; the young people keep the year, to prolong the life of their parents.

FIRECRACKERS

Promptly when the new year arrives, the first thing that every household opens the door is exactly to set off firecrackers, to get rid of the old and usher in the new with the sound of firecrackers. Setting off firecrackers has a history of more than two 2000 years. It can create a festive and lively atmosphere, and is a recreational activity during festivals that can bring people joy and good luck. With the passage of time, firecrackers have become more and more widely used, and their varieties and colours are becoming more and more diverse. During major festivals and celebrations, as well as weddings, house building, and business openings, firecrackers are set off for auspiciousness.

SPRING FESTIVAL FOOD CUSTOMS

Steamed rice cakes, mostly eaten in the south of China, have almost become a must-have food for every occasion. The sound “cake” and “high” have the same pronunciation in Chinese. Therefore, eating the cake at the turn of the year symbolises progress and development. The styles of rice cakes include cube-shaped yellow and white rice cakes, which symbolise gold and silver, indicating becoming wealthy in the new year.

Another typical food is fish, the sound of which in Chinese also means “surplus”. People eat fish following the ancient saying “may there be surpluses every year”.

The most popular food is Jiaozi or dumplings. Jiaozi consist of a filling wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of dough. Common dumpling meat fillings include pork, beef, shrimp, which are usually mixed with chopped vegetables. Jiaozi can be boiled, steamed, or fried, and are traditionally served with a black vinegar or soy sauce.

Interestingly, sometimes a coin is wrapped into Jiaozi and whoever finds the coin is considered to be the luckiest person. Happy Year of the Rabbit!

Feng Lei is the Chinese director of the Confucius Institute at The University of the West Indies, Mona