Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
Monday, January 23 starts the 2012 Lunar New Years. Lunar New Year is celebrated in many of the Asian cultures, such as Chinese and Korean. Even today, it is still one of the most important holidays celebrated in those cultures.
If you train in a Martial Arts system that is based on an Asian lineage (which many of them are), this holiday is significant to your style. In order to be well-rounded in Martial Arts, itís a good idea to also understand and study the cultures from which they arise. Each Asian culture is slightly different in how they celebrate and what they emphasis. Here are some generalities:
Chinese: This is one of the most widely known of the Lunar New Year's celebrations. Traditionally, this holiday will extend for 15-days and not only signify the end of the year but also the beginning of spring. During this holiday, there are many firecrackers and dancing dragons. Red is an important color and signifies luck in the coming year. To wish someone a happy new year in Chinese, you have to know which dialect they speak. But generally, a variant of "Gong Hey Fai Choi" is understood by most.
Korean: Also known as "Seollal", this is a 3-day celebration. Koreans wear their formal hanbok on this day and spend the holiday visiting family. Koreans play several games during the New Year. Boys would fly kites and girls play on large seesaws. To wish someone a new year, they would say "saehae bok mani badeuseyo".
Japanese: Prior to 1873, Japanese celebrated new years by the lunar calendar as other Asian cultures. However, after the Meiji Restoration, they adopted the Gregorian calendar and celebrate New Years on January 1 as the Western world. Even still, there are some traditions they follow from the time before. At midnight on December 31, Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells 108 times, to symbolize the 108 human sins. Before the first sun rise, many will drive to the coast or a climb a mountain so they may witness the first sunrise of the new year.
In all cultures, food plays a significant part of the celebration. There are many specialty foods that appear during this season to truly make it special.
If you are part of a school or participate in Martial Arts, you may want to consider during this time of the year to explore the different cultures. It's a great way to explore more of the style you are learning and expand your knowledge and understanding.
If you have some traditions your school follows and would like to share with us, please post in our forums or on our Facebook page. Happy New Years!