2011 is Lunar Year 4709. The start of the New Year falls on Thursday, February 3 and is the Year of the Hare/Rabbit, the fourth animal sign.

What have John Keats, John Cleese, Ingrid Bergman, Sting, Albert Einstein, Whitney Houston, Leon Trosky. Frank Sinatra, Johnny Depp & David Beckham have in common? They were all born in the year of the Hare.

Like all Chinese festivals, the date of the New Year is determined by the lunar calendar rather than the Western (Gregorian) calendar, so the date of the holiday varies from late January to mid February.  New Year festival preparations start during the last few days of the last moon. People thoroughly clean their houses (but not on New Year’s Day), repay debts, cut their hair and buy new clothes. They decorate doors with vertical scrolls of good luck characters on red paper.  Incense is burned in many homes and also in temples as a mark of respect to ancestors. On New Year’s Eve houses are brightly lit and a large family dinner is served. In the south of China sticky-sweet glutinous rice pudding called nian gao is served, while in the north the steamed dumpling jiaozi is popular. Many celebrating the festival stay up until midnight, when fireworks are lit to drive away evil spirits.

It’s a tradition all children look forward to with glee, hands rubbing together in anticipation. It puts a sparkle in every eye and a hint of impatience in every step as they wait anxiously for that wonderful moment. To a child, it is more, much more than the new clothes they get to wear or the sumptuous banquet of delicious food. It is the Chinese New Year tradition of the Red Packet

On the first day of Chinese New Year, the married members of the family will present unmarried family members with these lucky red packets. The amount of money in the packets varies, typically with the closeness of the family connection. The closer the connection, the more the packets will contain. Red Packets, [ hóngbāo 紅包 ] are essentially envelopes stuffed with money. They are usually red, as the name suggests, as the Chinese believe the colour is an auspicious one. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. The fireworks that shower the festivities are rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits.

Once small and plain, these envelopes have evolved through the years to become sumptuously decorated masterpieces, with lucky symbols and good wishes gracing its surface. The packets are believed to represent blessings and prosperity, and are also said to enhance energy or chi, abundance and happiness. The origins of the red packet legend can be traced to the Sung Dynasty which ruled China between 960 and 1279.

[ Incidentally it was the first government in world history to issue banknotesor paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a permanent standing navy. This dynasty also saw the first known use of  gunpowder, as well as first understanding of true north using a compass.]

The legend of the red packet.

A fearsome demon was terrorizing the village of Chang Chieu. Brave warriors came from near and far to battle the demon but to no avail. All of them were defeated and only the lucky ones lived to tell the tale. One day, a young orphan boy appeared, brandishing a sabre. This was no ordinary sabre, but a magical one that he had inherited from his ancestors. Armed with this powerful weapon, he battled and slew the demon. As a token of their deep gratitude, the villagers presented the boy with money wrapped in red paper. 

The public holiday for New Year lasts three days in China, but the festival traditionally lasts till the 15th day of the lunar month when the Lantern Festival is held.

This weekend Chinese families will be giving their home a thorough cleaning.  It is believed the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for good luck. Brooms and dust pans are put away on the first day so that luck cannot be swept away. Some people give their homes, doors and window-frames a new coat of red paint. Homes are often decorated with paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases and couplets.

The first day of Chinese New Year is a time when families visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended family, usually their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. The second day is for married daughters to visit their birth parents. Prayers are also offered to one’s ancestors. Dogs and feed well as it is believed that the second day is the birthday of all dogs. The seventh day, the common man’s birthday, is when everyone grows one year older. The ninth day is traditionally the birthday of the Jade Emperor. On the fifteenth day of the New Year rice dumplings [ 汤圆 ] a sweet rice ball brewed in a soup is eaten. Candles are lit outside houses as a way to guide wayward spirits home and families walk the street carrying lighted lanterns to an evening parade under the light of the full moon. This day marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities whose highlight is the spontaneous countrywide firework display.

 Things to Avoid at New Year

Avoid housework on New Year’s Day; this activity runs the risk of washing or sweeping away good luck. For the same reason, avoid washing your hair on the first and last day of the New Year.

Avoid using anything sharp on New Year’s Day – knives, scissors, even nail clippers. The action of sharp blades risks cutting the threads of good fortune brought in at New Year.

Avoid using negative language – having an argument on New Year’s Day is to be avoided at all costs.

Avoid words related to sickness and death. This even extends to the use of words, which in Chinese sound like the words for death or sickness.

Finally, care must be taken not to stumble or to break anything – or else there will be bad luck ahead.

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are articulate, talented, and ambitious. They are virtuous, reserved, and have excellent taste. Rabbit people are admired, trusted, and are often financially lucky. They are fond of gossip but are tactful and generally kind. Rabbit people seldom lose their temper. They are clever at business and being conscientious, never back out of a contract. They would make good gamblers for they have the uncanny gift of choosing the right thing. However, they seldom gamble, as they are conservative and wise.

Rabbit Personality
People born in the year of the rabbit often make ideal diplomats or politicians. Rabbit person has grace, culture and beautiful manners. Although rabbit people get on well with everyone, at heart they are basically reserved creatures, and are only really happy when they are engrossed in some sort of scholarly or intellectual activity. They are just too sensitive to the world around them. They are just not able to thrive in a competitive or aggressive environment, and it makes them anxious if someone forces them to take risks. Their inner world is simply too delicate for unsettled or unpredictable situations, and they tend to create a peaceful and comfortable atmosphere on a hunch. This character trait makes them very hospitable and attentive people, who take care of those around. The average rabbit person emphasizes the importance of small details. They pay attention to everything from colour, design and furniture to food and conversation. And only when they are sure that everything has been arranged as they wished, these people can relax and have fun. Person born in the year of rabbit often leads a conservative lifestyle, where one of the most important things is their security. This quality has a negative side also. Opting for safety over risk they may miss good opportunities. This does not imply that these people are frivolous or irresponsible, for when they truly believe in something they are serious, perseverant and capable. Calm as they are, it is not easy to provoke rabbit people. They are sentimental and compassionate. Yes, and they cry easily too. They can be moved by personal problems you share with them.

Rabbit Romance
People born in this year can be great partners in relationships. Romantic and sweet, faithful too, rabbit people never lack of suitors. They are in extreme need of trust, security and tenderness in a relationship and are really happy when they manage to create an intimate and relaxed atmosphere. When the rabbit person does the planning, he/she is happy calling the shots and will expect his beloved automatically be on the same wavelength. In case the partner’s behaviour becomes erratic or hurtful he/she withdraws into your shell. Sometimes this person really believes that everything is fine and these relationships are strong and solid, but careless remark or impudent behaviour can suddenly place serious doubts in his/her mind. It is important to solve such problems appropriately. Partners may discuss these fears and express their points of view openly to avoid repetition of these problems in the future. Otherwise these relationships won’t last too long. In spite of his/her devotion to the loved one, it is important to remember that the rabbit person wants to have a secret side to his/her life, too. It is natural for him/her to demand solitude in order to get in touch with his/her inner self. Sometimes it takes time for a rabbit person to find a partner, a real soul-mate, and he/she may seem to be fickle and insecure along the way, but when he/she has found that person his/her attachment is boundless.

Rabbit Career
Call them cautious or call them timid, rabbit people will undertake nothing before they have weighed the pros and cons from every angle. And that is probably why rabbit people are doing their work so well. They are balanced in outlook and cautious in approach, and like to be informed of all the facts before making a judgment. They usually cannot bear the cut and thrust of business life preferring work that is more methodical and reliable. At times a rabbit person is a bit of a plotter and tends to be too conservative, but he/she is gifted with a positive yet practical outlook that few can fault. He/she has a talent to avoid the trouble and identify opportunity. But it is important to remember that his/her creative talents will come to the fore when he/she is allowed to work at your own pace. As a rule, colleagues value these people’s tact and modesty and realize the facts that rabbit people are unlikely to step over others to achieve their goals.

Rabbit Compatibility

Compatible with: Ram, Pig, Dog
Less Compatible with: Rat, Rabbit, Dragon, Ox, Tiger, Snake, Monkey
Least Compatible with: Rooster, Horse

Rabbit Capability

Positive: The Rabbit can be sensitive, tactful. Home-loving, refined, prudent, discreet, long-living, ambitious, cultured, well-mannered, artistic, considerate, scholarly, suave, graciously hospitable, modest and unimpeachably virtuous.
Negative: The Rabbit can also be snobbish, secretive, pedantic, complicated, haughtily indifferent, self-indulgent, punctilious, judgemental, self-righteous, deceptive, self-centred and terminally condescending.

Ideal Jobs for the Rabbit Include:Counsellor, barrister, judge, solicitor, adviser or secretary.


 Happy New Year




  1. I should have read your blog post on the Chinese New Year instead of going to Wikipedia. I will look forward to your treatment of the dragon next year!

    Terry – The Other I

  2. we all see the same subject from a slightly different perspective. I enjoy reading about ‘foreign’ customs which helps me see the world in a different light to the one painted when I was at school !!

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