Today is the first day of the Year of the Tiger. According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, that would make it 4707, 4708, or 4646 – depending on which source you consult.
If the calendar now universally used throughout the world is based on the earth’s rotation around the sun, the Lunar Calendar, which was used in China until the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, was based on the moon’s rotation around the earth.
While the Western – or Gregorian – Calendar has been used in China now for nearly 100 years, the Lunar Calendar continues to play an important role in Chinese society. Chinese holidays – such as Chinese New Year, the Grave Sweeping Festival, the Moon Festival, and others – continue to be celebrated according to when they fall on the Lunar Calendar. As a result, Chinese New Year can fall as early as late January or – as this year – as late as mid-February.
The Lunar Calendar is also used in fortune telling and determining auspicious and inauspicious dates to hold wedding banquets, official openings, and other key events. If the trains are particularly crowded in late evening in Hong Kong or Singapore, you can be sure that it is an auspicious date on which to get married!
Today marks the first day of the Year of the Tiger. While customs vary from region to region, generally speaking, it is considered unlucky to use knives or fire on the first day of the new year. All of the food consumed today should therefore have already been prepared. Many people also avoid eating meat.
On the first day of the Lunar New Year, families visit the oldest and most senior members of the clan – parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. Practically no shops or restaurants will be open for business. But – if you’re ravenous and on your own – there’s always McDonald’s!
Copyright: Michael Taylor
Pictured: Cafe Bela Vista, Grand Lapa, Macau
Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental