Written by: Yvonne Wolf, Chinese Intercultural Consultant
Lunar New Year is a traditional holiday celebrated by almost 20% of the Earth’s global
population. It is a non-religious holiday based on an ancient, lunar-based calendar that originated in China. This lunar-based calendar has been used in many parts of East Asia for several millennia. The first day of the first month was known as the new year’s day. By the second half of the 20th century, the lunar calendar ran concurrently with the Gregorian calendar that most of the world follows.
Each year was linked with one of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, beginning with the Rat and ending with the Boar. This year, January 22nd, 2023, will be the first day of the first month on this lunar calendar. The year will turn from the Year of the Tiger to the Year of the Hare.
The Hare is the fourth animal in the Chinese zodiac cycle. As the Year of the Hare follows the Year of the Tiger, there is a significant change from the temperament and characteristics of the most aggressive zodiac animal, the Tiger, to the intelligent peacemaker, the Hare. Traditionally, it is said that the Hare is characterized by its amicable nature, attention to details, and ability to mediate differences and keep friends.
As part of the celebration to end the old year and welcome the new one, many East Asian countries, especially the Chinese speaking countries, will play mahjong. This game involves winds and directions of changing winds, i.e., East, South, West, and North. It is the perfect activity to play while marking the changing of the year. Since the Lunar New Year is also referred to as the Spring Festival, playing mahjong, where the seasons are part of the tiles on the table, makes the changing of the seasons abundantly clear and fun.
Chinese speaking countries (China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysian, Singapore, Taiwan) share common linguistic expressions about changing one’s luck as the year changes, as in 過年轉運,guòníanzhuǎnyùn. Playing mahjong brings people together and ensures that the family begins the year with joyful chatter and laughter. Hence, playing mahjong is one of the activities that changes the energy in the household by purging negative energy and bringing in positive energy.
If you haven’t had a reason to get together this year, why not join the millions of people of East Asian heritage who celebrate the Lunar New Year over a game of mahjong?!
May your good fortune multiply rabbitly this year.
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