🧧 What's the deal between the cat and the rabbit?
My once-in-12-years confusion solved! (sort of)
A quick Lunar New Year update from around the region from me. Mostly, it’s an excuse to share this great NPR piece I read.
I’ve been travelling around a little bit this week and serendipitously spent the morning of the holiday in Singapore. I’ve truly never seen anything like it — not the celebrations, but how quiet the streets were! And how loud the flats I walked past in Tiong Bahru were! Very cool, even if we had to go all the way to Outram Park for a coffee.
Happy New Year to all readers who celebrate. Will be back in your inboxes tomorrow.
🐰 🐱 Is it the Year of the Rabbit? Or the Year of the Cat?
This from Suzanne Nguyen at NPR is fascinating, though it raises more questions than answers.
Nguyen lays out how the calendar works — this new year is Quy Mao and I cannot do justice to her explanation so please click through. ‘In China, the rabbit was chosen to represent the earthly branch called Mao. But in Vietnamese, the pronunciation of Mao can be very similar to how the word "cat" is pronounced,’ Nguyen writes. Doan Thanh Loc, a cultural consultant at the Southern Jade Pavilion Cultural Center in Vietnam, told her that either/or is fine, really. “These are just symbols we've used as code for the earthly branches.” Interestingly, Doan Thanh Loc notes that many old texts show Vietnam celebrating the Years of the Rabbit and no one is too sure when the country switched over.
Nguyen also spoke with Quyen Di, from UCLA, who suggested landscape played a huge influence. Chinese people historically lived in savanna areas: “The people of the savanna prefer a nomadic life, close to the wilderness, and they chose the rabbit as an animal that lived in the wild fields.”
I love this piece! This is excellent, please read!
🇵🇭 Keeping traditions alive
A very good trivia question I am always prepared for is this: where is the oldest Chinatown in the world? Manila! The Binondo neighbourhood has existed since the 1500s and remains one of the most interesting parts of the city to walk around.
The Inquirer has a great video here ahead of the weekend’s celebrations going into the lion dance traditions and how that looks in the Philippines. It’s a very cool video with performers Arman Lutranio and Allan Quinto, neither of who are ethnically Chinese, chatting about their experiences — and bless Taglish because it’s easy-ish to follow along:
Will Lunar New Year be a recognised holiday soon in the Philippines? Sen. Sonny Angara hopes so. Earlier this month he filed a bill in favour of adding the holiday to the roster: “In view of the long relations with the Chinese, this bill recognises the contributions of the Chinese to our development as a nation… This proposed measure seeks to declare the annual celebration of Chinese New Year’s Day in the Philippines as a special non-working holiday in the entire country.”
In true Filipino political tradition, his father, the former Senate president Edgardo Angara, almost got the same bill across the line in 2013 but didn’t quite get there. I think that’s a fantastic idea and Australia should do it too.
🇸🇬 Peranakan New Year’s is like none other
Don’t you just love the world! Rice Media has a beautiful piece about the Peranakan Chinese New Year experience. It doesn’t look like other celebrations — blessed oranges and Catholic mass read in Baba Malay. For the Peranakan community in Singapore’s Joo Chiat and Katong areas, this is a relatively new tradition beginning in the 70s. This piece is gorgeous you simply must read it: ‘The pieces don’t seem to fit, but you cannot help but remark on how incredibly Singaporean it is.’
🇻🇳 Enjoying the break, I hope!
And then there’s the regional big boy: Tet. I can’t find too much coverage of the holiday (as I always lament, Google news alerts don’t often work for Vietnam on account of a certain country’s obsession with a certain war era, and Tet is magnified for that). But I did love this gorgeous collection of photos from Express. I hope my fave Vietnam reads are enjoying their well-earned break!