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Global Times: Lunar New Year listed as UN floating holiday, indicating increasing global recognition of Chinese culture: expert

BEIJING, Dec. 26, 2023 -- The 78th United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on Friday, officially designating the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, as a UN floating holiday. Experts said the move shows the influential power of Chinese culture and will contribute to the promotion of the Global Civilization Initiative.

"This decision indicates an increasing global recognition of China's culture and its influence," Zheng Changling, secretary-general of the China Folk Culture Innovation and Development Center and research fellow at the Chinese National Academy of Arts, told the Global Times on Sunday.

According to a post by the UN News on Friday, this resolution "recognizes the significant importance of the Lunar New Year and urges UN entities at headquarters and other offices to avoid scheduling meetings on this day." Currently, UN staff have 10 days to rest annually, with nine statutory holidays and a floating holiday.

The decision marks the Lunar New Year becoming the eighth floating holiday observed by UN staff worldwide, together with Yom Kippur, Vesak Day, Diwali, Gurpurab, Orthodox Christmas, Orthodox Good Friday and Nowruz.

"The official recognition of the Chinese New Year as a UN holiday fully showcases the influential power of Chinese civilization, which will promote exchanges and mutual learning among diverse world cultures and actively embody the UN's values of diverse and inclusive cultural ideals," China's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Dai Bing said after the adoption of the resolution, according to the post by the UN News.

The reason why the Lunar New Year can transcend national borders and is increasingly welcomed by many countries lies primarily in the profound cultural heritage of China and the driving force of globalization. As the world's second-largest economy, China's cultural elements have diffused alongside its economic influence. In the trend of globalization, people's interest in diverse cultures is gradually increasing, and the Lunar New Year has become a crucial means for people to connect and communicate, Shan Jixiang, former curator of the Palace Museum, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Prior to this resolution, Chinese nationals working at the UN headquarters and other offices, as well as the Permanent Mission of China to the UN, had been actively advocating for the inclusion of the Lunar New Year as a UN holiday for over a decade. The festive atmosphere during the Lunar New Year has long been present at the UN headquarters in New York City, with celebrations and events organized by both official and unofficial groups.

The occasion has also become an annual tradition for the UN leadership to convey messages of goodwill and cooperation. For example, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and his predecessor Ban Ki-moon have regularly extended their wishes to those celebrating the Lunar New Year, emphasizing its significance and expressing their visions for the upcoming year.

Chinese nationals working within the UN have traditionally organized unofficial celebrations, such as book clubs and other gatherings, to celebrate the festival. With this recent decision, UN employees can now more freely and joyfully celebrate this traditional holiday.

The Lunar New Year festival not only bears the ideas of peace and harmony valued by Chinese civilization but also carries the common values of humanity such as family harmony, social inclusion, and a sound relationship between man and nature, Dai said.

Dai also said that approximately one-fifth of the global population celebrate the festival in various forms.

As one of the most important festivals for the Chinese people, the Lunar New Year features family reunions, feasts, and various cultural activities. The 2024 festival will fall on February 10, 2024.

On different days, Chinese people have different customs. On New Year's Eve, the biggest event is the annual family reunion dinner. Another tradition is to stay up on New Year's Eve, known as shousui, which is thought to add to one's parents' longevity.

People also engage in various activities such as purchasing New Year goods, posting Spring Festival couplets, visiting family and friends, paying respects to their ancestors, and organizing diverse events like dragon and lion dances, as well as temple fairs.

The Spring Festival is not only a Chinese celebration, it has become a global one. Nations like Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada, Suriname, and some states in the US, including California and New York, officially celebrate the Lunar New Year as a public holiday. Some national leaders and international organization heads also deliver greetings during the Lunar New Year.

This recognition is in response to the extension of the Lunar New Year beyond the Chinese community to various parts of the world, reflecting respect for global cultural diversity and an emphasis on the inheritance and innovation of civilizations, said Li Yonggang, an expert from the Academy of Chinese Culture.

According to Li, throughout centuries of development, the Lunar New Year has evolved into a complex ritual system with common elements and regional variations. These rituals allow people to experience the charm of Chinese culture in a tangible way and enable observers to become active participants, further enhancing the festival's popularity.

Despite profound changes in modern society, there remains a consistent need for spiritual liberation and transcendence. In the current increasingly alienated and inwardly focused industrial society, the continuity and innovation of traditional festivals reflect collective efforts to resist alienation and seek a spiritual home, Li noted.

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SOURCE Global Times