Christmas Is Your Chinese New Year: Fascinating Similarities – Pub’d on China Daily

China Daily published my latest column Christmas is your Chinese New Year: Fascinating similarities. Here’s an excerpt:

“Christmas is your Chinese New Year.”

I’ve heard this phrase uttered to me countless times by people in China when the holidays roll around, whether Christmas or Chinese New Year.

I once thought the comparison a bit of a stretch, wondering how the holiday of Santa Claus of my childhood in the United States could possibly resemble a celebration involving fireworks and lion dances. But over the years I’ve recognized that Chinese New Year and Christmas share fascinating, and sometimes surprising, commonalities.

Here are some interesting ones I’ve observed:

Good fortune

Many Chinese New Year customs I’ve experienced at my in-laws’ home in Zhejiang province revolve around auspiciousness, such as the red couplets and firecrackers used to ensure a propitious start to the new year. But Christmas traditions I’ve grown up with are also said to represent good fortune, including the centerpiece of all decorations: the Christmas tree.

The color red

Red is a beloved shade for Christmas and a lucky one for Chinese New Year.

Marking beginnings

While Chinese New Year signals the start of the new lunar year, Christmas once fell on the exact date of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and a time traditionally marking the “rebirth” of the sun.

Lights

Both Chinese New Year and Christmas dazzle with plenty of lights in decorations and rituals. My father-in-law loves adorning the family home in Zhejiang with traditional red lanterns for Chinese New Year, just as my husband and I enjoy decking our Christmas tree and home with strings of colored lights. Growing up, my family would drive to Christmas light displays in town where we would gaze upon twinkling Santas, reindeer and stars. So naturally, I felt right at home attending my first Lantern Festival in China, surrounded by huge, glowing displays shaped like Chinese zodiac animals.

You can read the full column here. And if you like it, share it!

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2 Replies to “Christmas Is Your Chinese New Year: Fascinating Similarities – Pub’d on China Daily”

  1. I think a similarity between Chinese New Year and Christmas (in western countries) is that it’s the time of year people travel home to be with family.

    When my son lived in China he would visit me in Australia for Christmas. He now lives in Australia, they travel to China for Chinese New Year so my daughter in law can be with her family.

    Do you live in Zhejiang? My son lived in Ningbo & my DIL’s family live in Wenzhou. Zhejiang Province is the part of China I’m most familiar with.

    1. Thanks for the comment, OzNaiNai. I used to live in Zhejiang (where my husband’s family still lives), but now reside in Beijing. Some of our family members came from an area near Wenzhou — it’s a special part of China, with one of the least intelligible dialects in the country.

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