Chinese New Year lessons
By George N. Tzogopoulos  ·  2024-02-02  ·   Source: NO.6 FEBRUARY 8, 2024

The ancient Chinese civilization, dating back five millennia, remains a point of reference and a reason for admiration in today's era.

So it makes sense that several Chinese governmental initiatives outline the link between past and present.

The Global Civilizations Initiative, proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2023 and meant to promote humanity's shared values, constitutes one characteristic example thereof. 

Also, the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, an initiative to boost connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes first proposed by China in 2013, is based on the careful study of these routes and their modification amid new challenges and the current global landscape.

Of course, the word "civilization" itself does not only refer to past achievements. It can also incorporate tendencies which are monitored in the modern epoch and are indicative of how a population lives and how its habits evolve.

In that regard, the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, which falls on February 10 this year, deserves special attention.

This is the most important and traditional celebration in Chinese culture. On this occasion, people return home to reunite with family and ring in another lunisolar year.

For those residing outside Chinese borders, the beauty of the Chinese New Year might be seen through media imagery that depicts the occasion's many different celebratory aspects, including dragon dances, elaborate fairs and meticulous decorations.

The importance of the event can be seen in the massive number of citizens traveling home within the country. Train ticket reservations for the 2024 celebration, for example, were already particularly high in late January and are likely to break existing records by the time the Spring Festival travel rush, a 40-day period of travel in China around the Chinese New Year, concludes. This year, the travel rush got underway on January 26 and will conclude on March 5.

For Chinese people, the Spring Festival is much more than a typical celebration.

It stresses the importance of family, a critical value within society, as well as that of harmony.

It is particularly difficult to approach Chinese culture without understanding these two concepts and their relevance to the annual habit of ordinary citizens. Overseas Chinese who do not have the opportunity to return to China for the Chinese New Year, usually try to stick to the original tradition in the countries where they are based.

But non-Chinese living outside China's borders have also started to pay closer attention to the Spring Festival in recent years.

Aside from following the celebrations of local Chinese communities, they can attend cultural exhibitions and events. Last year, for example, the Brooklyn Nets, an American basketball team, organized related festivities on the occasion of its game against the Detroit Pistons in New York City. Furthermore, people can get a taste of the many special Chinese dishes Chinese restaurants around the world prepare on the occasion of the Chinese New Year. After all, the Chinese cuisine cannot but be appreciated.

While more people are learning about the Spring Festival, the UN made a significant step a few weeks ago. In particular, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution by consensus on December 22, 2023 to list the Chinese New Year as a UN floating holiday.

This means that it will start to be celebrated at the UN and complement other holidays for its staff such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and several others. The more China grows, the more its culture is shared across the globe.

Against this backdrop, the Chinese Government is intensifying efforts to inscribe the Spring Festival on the List of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

As the Spring Festival holiday, which runs from February 10 to 17 this year and marks a time for relaxation and refreshment, swiftly approaches…

A very happy Spring Festival to all Chinese people around the world!

The author is director of the EU-China Program at the Centre International de Formation Européenne 

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon

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