Why Spring Festival Became an International Holiday: A Global Perspective

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Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year, is the most important traditional festival in China and many other Asian countries. It is a time to celebrate the end of the lunar year and the beginning of a new one, with family reunions, festive decorations, delicious food, and various customs. But did you know that Spring Festival is also a public holiday in some non-Asian countries? In this article, we will explore how and why Spring Festival became an international holiday, and what it means for the global community.

The History of Spring Festival

Spring Festival has a long history that dates back to ancient times. According to legend, there was a mythical beast called Nian that would attack people and animals on the last day of the lunar year. To scare away Nian, people would light firecrackers, hang red lanterns, and wear red clothes. They would also offer sacrifices and pray for good fortune in the new year. These practices gradually evolved into the traditions that we know today.

Spring Festival is based on the lunar calendar, which follows the cycles of the moon. Therefore, the date of Spring Festival varies from year to year, but it usually falls between late January and mid-February. The festival lasts for 15 days, until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Each year is associated with one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, which are believed to influence the personality and destiny of people born in that year.

The Spread of Spring Festival

Spring Festival is not only celebrated in China, but also in many other Asian countries that share cultural and historical ties with China, such as Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. These countries have their own variations of Spring Festival, with different names, foods, and customs. For example, in Korea, Spring Festival is called Seollal, and people eat rice cake soup and bow to their elders. In Vietnam, Spring Festival is called Tet, and people decorate their homes with peach blossoms and kumquat trees.

Spring Festival also spread to other parts of the world through the migration of Chinese people. Starting from the 19th century, many Chinese people left their homeland to seek better opportunities in other countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Peru, and South Africa. They brought with them their culture and traditions, including Spring Festival. They would celebrate Spring Festival with their fellow Chinese immigrants, and also share it with the local people. Over time, Spring Festival became a part of the multicultural fabric of these countries.

The Recognition of Spring Festival

As Spring Festival became more popular and influential in the world, some countries decided to officially recognize it as a public holiday. The first country to do so was Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, in 1896. Mauritius has a large population of Chinese descent, who make up about 3% of the total population. Spring Festival is a major event in Mauritius, with parades, lion dances, dragon dances, and fireworks.

Other countries that have declared Spring Festival as a public holiday include:

  • Brunei, a Southeast Asian country, in 1984. Brunei has a significant Chinese minority, who make up about 10% of the population. Spring Festival is celebrated with open houses, where people invite their friends and neighbors to enjoy food and drinks.
  • Indonesia, the largest Southeast Asian country, in 2002. Indonesia has the largest Chinese diaspora in the world, with about 3% of the population being of Chinese origin. Spring Festival is celebrated with prayers, offerings, and family gatherings.
  • The Philippines, an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia, in 2011. The Philippines has a long history of Chinese influence, dating back to the pre-colonial era. About 2% of the population are Chinese Filipinos, who celebrate Spring Festival with tikoy, a sticky rice cake, and ang pao, red envelopes with money.
  • Suriname, a South American country, in 2014. Suriname has a diverse population, with about 7% being of Chinese descent. Spring Festival is celebrated with cultural performances, food stalls, and fireworks.

The Significance of Spring Festival

Spring Festival is more than just a festival. It is a symbol of the rich and diverse culture of China and the Chinese people. It is also a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the Chinese people, who have preserved and transmitted their traditions across time and space. Moreover, Spring Festival is a bridge that connects China and the world, fostering mutual understanding and respect among different cultures and peoples.

Spring Festival is a time to celebrate the past, the present, and the future. It is a time to honor our ancestors, cherish our family and friends, and hope for a better tomorrow. It is a time to embrace our identity, appreciate our diversity, and share our joy. It is a time to say goodbye to the old, and welcome the new. It is a time to say: Happy Spring Festival!

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