A man walks past a dragon figure at a new year's fair in Beijing on February 4, 2024. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

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As the Lunar calendar turns a page to welcome the Year of the Dragon, the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, unfolds in a spectacular display of traditions, celebrations, and global recognition. This year, the festivities begin on February 10th, marking the start of the most significant holiday in China and for millions around the world. The Spring Festival not only heralds the lunar new year but embodies the rich tapestry of Chinese culture, its influence, and the shared joy across diverse communities.

 

 CGTN's "Super Night" Ushers in the Festivities

To kick off the celebrations, CGTN is hosting a grand Spring Festival special titled "Super Night" on the eve of the Chinese New Year. This unique live TV program promises a plethora of splendid performances, reaching audiences worldwide through CGTN's multilingual channels. Viewers can tune in at 7:30 p.m. Beijing Time on February 9th to witness a vibrant array of shows and festival blessings in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Russian, underscoring the inclusive spirit of the festivities.

 

 UN's Recognition of Spring Festival

In a significant acknowledgment of the Spring Festival's global impact, the United Nations has officially listed it as a Floating Holiday in its Calendar of Conferences and Meetings starting from 2024. This recognition by the UN not only highlights the extensive influence of Chinese civilization but also promotes diverse and inclusive cultural values. UN employees will now enjoy a paid day off, choosing when to celebrate this floating holiday, a testament to the festival's universal appeal and the message of peace, harmony, and unity it carries.

 

Helsinki's Misguided Decision: The Loss of Cultural Diversity and Inclusivity

The abrupt termination of Helsinki's Chinese New Year celebration after a 16-year tradition represents a significant misstep in the city's approach to cultural inclusivity and diversity. Asserting a desire to focus on less recognized cultures by eliminating a well-established and popular event is a flawed strategy that misconstrues the concept of cultural balance. True balance is achieved by adding and expanding the spectrum of cultural celebrations, not by subtracting them. The Chinese New Year festivities have been an integral part of Helsinki's cultural landscape, contributing vibrant multicultural dimensions and facilitating cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. This event did not detract from the visibility or viability of other cultural celebrations; rather, it enriched the city's cultural fabric and provided a platform for the celebration of diversity. By discontinuing this event, Helsinki not only deprives its residents and the substantial Chinese community of a key annual celebration but also sends a troubling message about its commitment to multiculturalism. In doing so, the city loses an opportunity to enhance its cultural diversity through inclusion and instead opts for a reductive approach that undermines the very essence of a cosmopolitan society. The decision reflects a critical misunderstanding of how cultural celebrations can coexist, complement, and enrich one another, contributing to a more vibrant, inclusive, and dynamic urban community.

 

 Traditions and Celebrations

The Spring Festival is an annual 15-day event that begins with the new moon between January 21st and February 20th, extending until the full moon that follows. This period is marked by various customs, from thorough house cleanings to drive away bad luck to the preparation of feasts and honouring of ancestors. The eve of the New Year is reserved for family reunions, where multi-generational gatherings enjoy a banquet of traditional foods, exchange red envelopes with money, and light fireworks to welcome the new year.

 

A panda cub playing with festive decorations at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Wenchuan / Sichuan province

 

 The Year of the Dragon

The Chinese zodiac, a 12-year cycle of animal signs, moves into the Year of the Dragon in 2024. The dragon, a symbol of strength, luck, and vitality, promises a year of potential and prosperity. People born in the Year of the Dragon, including years such as 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, and now 2024, will celebrate their Zodiac Year of Birth (Ben Ming Nian), an occasion of special significance and reflection.

 

 Global Celebrations and Cultural Exchange

The Chinese New Year's global appeal is evident in its celebration across various countries and regions, making it a statutory holiday in many places. The UN Secretary-General's annual congratulatory message ahead of the Spring Festival extends holiday greetings to people worldwide, further solidifying its place as a global cultural event.

As the festival progresses, the climax arrives around Lunar New Year's Eve, with the festival atmosphere dominated by iconic red lanterns, loud fireworks, and massive banquets. The celebrations culminate in the Festival of Lanterns, lighting up streets and homes, bringing the festivities to a close with a blend of joy and nostalgia.

 

 A Time for Family and Unity

Like Christmas in Western cultures, Chinese New Year is a time for family reunions, heartfelt conversations, and shared meals, reinforcing the bonds of kinship and community. It is a period of renewal, where old debts are settled, homes are cleansed of the previous year's misfortunes, and individuals look forward with hope to the new year.

The Year of the Dragon 2024 invites everyone to partake in these ancient rituals and modern celebrations, bridging cultures and continents. It is a testament to the enduring legacy and evolving narrative of the Chinese New Year, a festival that continues to captivate the imagination and hearts of people around the globe.

 

HT

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