It's Spring Festival! Happy New Year!

Every late Jan/early Feb when the New Year of my ancestors comes along I face a mini-dilemma - what to call it?  I agree with folks who argue that calling it “Chinese New Year” is Sinocentric and ignores the millions of Vietnamese and Koreans who also celebrate this day. But calling it “Lunar New Year” presents its own problems as there are other lunar calendars - the Jewish one comes quickly to mind. Plus the Chinese calendar is luni-solar, not purely lunar. (Yes, I am a geek.) Then I think, well it IS Chinese New Year. The reason why it’s celebrated in Vietnam and Korea is because of Chinese imperialism. And then I think, well… maybe we don’t want to remind folks of that.

The other problem is that every time I call it “Chinese New Year,” or even “Lunar New Year,” it reminds me that I’m putting a qualifier on it, reinforcing that the day that comes about a dozen days after the winter solstice is thenormative New Year and any other is an add on that some people celebrate to be “ethnic.” Still, I just kept alternating between “Chinese New Year” and “Lunar New Year” because what else could I call it?

Was sharing some of these thoughts on facebook when someone made a very obvious (in retrospect, and yet I never thought of it despite all my ruminizing) suggestion - call it what it’s called in Chinese - Spring Festival. And, she added, “that would make it more ethnically neutral as well.” YES!! Makes sense to me! After all, Jews do not call their new year “Jewish New Year;” they call it Rosh Hashanah. No Chinese person living in China would say “Chinese New Year;” that would be absurd. So from now on, I am still going to wish folks 新年快乐! (Happy New Year!) when the time comes around, but I’m no longer going to refer to it as “Chinese” or “Lunar” New Year. It is 春节, Spring Festival.

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