Friday, February 08, 2008

The Year of the Rodent

Kung Hei Fat Choi! Right now in Hong Kong it is the Chinese New Year. I really should say it is the Lunar New Year, since other societies and cultures also celebrate their Lunar New Year at this time of year with different festivities. That's according to Wikipedia, so I don't know how much that is true.

The Lunar New Year is the Chinese equivalent of Christmas or Thanksgiving, whether you are British or American. One spends time with family members one hasn't seen for the past year and after meeting them it is no wonder why one doesn't want to see them for the whole year. You receive presents you don't normally use - in this case it is usually chocolates you don't normally consume or those really bad butter biscuits which they emphasize are from Denmark for some reason.

One aspect I don't like about the Lunar New Year, particularly as a person who is very concerned about the environment, is the amount of paper used at this time of year. For Christmas an extraordinary amount of wrapping paper and Christmas cards are used. For the Chinese New Year, we also wrap our presents of chocolates and butter biscuits in streams of wrapping paper, give 'lai see' (red pockets filled with money) that have been manufactured by chopping down loads of trees and we put up decorations, usually in the forms of signs with seasonal greetings. Already an environmental group has asked people to consider alternatives, such as putting stickers with festive greetings instead of wrapping paper on their presents. Yet I doubt many people would do this. Many people don't want to clash with tradition.

You can tell it is the Lunar New Year by the local news coverage. It is the same standardized news that comes out every year, a bit like the local news coverage in US and UK during Christmas. The channels tell us how people celebrate the holidays, who is the first newborn of the year and what happens at the traditional places of celebration, such as the Wong Tai Sin temple and the Wishing Tree.

On a parting note, why do they have to call this year the Year of the Rat. Unfortunately the rat has a poor reputation, spreader of disease and filth. So when you think of this rodent, it is not in the highest esteem. Maybe they should rename it the Year of the Mouse, since most people think of mice as cute and cuddly?

1 comment:

Belema said...

Google had a rat inscription on the google page ...acknowleding the year of the rat ....I was born on the year of the pig ....Im not excited about that !!!