Chinese communities welcome Year of the Pig

February 06, 2019

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Beijing: A woman burns incense sticks and prays at a temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year on Tuesday.—Reuters
Beijing: A woman burns incense sticks and prays at a temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year on Tuesday.—Reuters

CHINESE communities around the world welcomed the Year of the Pig on Tuesday, ushering in the Lunar New Year with prayers, family feasts and shopping sprees. Celebrations will take place across the globe, from Southeast Asia’s centuries-old Chinese communities to the more recently established Chinatowns of Sydney, London, Vancouver, Los Angeles and beyond. The most important holiday of the Chinese calendar marks the New Year with a fortnight of festivities as reunited families wrap dumplings together and exchange gifts and red envelopes stuffed with money.

Pigs symbolise good fortune and wealth in Chinese culture and this year’s holiday brings a proliferation of porcine merchandise, greetings and decorations. Researchers have also traced the origins of the zodiac animal. Chinese archaeologists found that China was one of the earliest places in the world to domesticate pigs about 9,000 years ago — around the time when ancient Turkey began similar domestication practices — based on research on pig bones excavated at Jiahu in Henan province, Xinhua reported.

In Hong Kong, flower markets were filled with residents picking out orchids, mandarins and peach blossoms to decorate their homes — with stalls also boasting a dizzying array of pig-themed pillows, tote bags and stuffed toys. In Shanghai on the mainland crowds packed into the Longhua temple to pray for good fortune. In Malaysia — where 60 per cent of the population is Muslim, and a quarter ethnic Chinese — some shopping centres chose not to display pig decorations, while some shops kept them inside. But shoppers and traders said that was usual in a country where the Muslim majority are sensitive about an animal considered unclean in Islam, and overall there had been little controversy this year.

Next door in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country which also has a sizeable ethnic Chinese population, the Lunar New Year is a public holiday. In Japan, the capital’s famous Tokyo Tower was due to turn red in celebration of the New Year — a first for the city.

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2019