January 27, 2023

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Why Vietnam Celebrates the Year of the Cat on the Lunar New Year: NPR

Posters of a cat hung on display last week in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Lunar New Year begins on Sunday and marks the Year of the Cat in Vietnam and the Year of the Rabbit in China, South Korea and other East and Southeast Asian countries.

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Posters of a cat hung on display last week in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Lunar New Year begins on Sunday and marks the Year of the Cat in Vietnam and the Year of the Rabbit in China, South Korea and other East and Southeast Asian countries.

Linh Pham / Getty Images

The Lunar New Year begins on Sunday, and more than 1 billion people will attend the New Year’s Eve, prompting the event One of the largest annual migrations in the world As observers they travel for a family reunion.

The holiday is celebrated throughout Asia and the Asian diaspora, including among these VietnameseAnd Chinese And korean coming down. The holiday is also celebrated at Mongoliabut in February, as the date is determined by a different calendar system there.

While almost everyone will come in 2023, Vietnam welcomes the Year of the Cat. Why is Vietnam different from the rest of the world this year? The origins of the Year of the Cat are obscure.

People eat ice cream next to a large cat statue in a shop in Hanoi this week. Statues of cats of all sizes and styles line the streets of Vietnam ahead of the Lunar New Year.

Nhak Nguyen/AFP via Getty Images

One explanation has to do with linguistics, according to Doan Thanh Loc, a cultural advisor at the Southern Jade Pavilion Cultural Center in Vietnam. It is widely believed that the Chinese word for rabbit sounds like the Vietnamese word for cat, but this is not entirely true.

History of the Lunar New Year in Vietnam, also called Tet Nguyen Dan, It is determined using Chinese lunar calendar. The months are set using the orbits of the Moon and Earth, with leap months added every few years to stay in sync with the solar cycle. Each year in the calendar is given a name using a combination of 12 terrestrial branches – each corresponding to an animal in the zodiac – and 10 celestial stems.

This New Year will be named Quy Mao, after the tenth heavenly stem, Quy, and the fourth earthly branch, Mao. In China, the rabbit was chosen to represent the earthly branch called Mao. But in Vietnamese, the pronunciation of mau can be very similar to how the word “cat” is pronounced. “Mao doesn’t necessarily mean cat or rabbit,” Duan says. “These are just symbols that we used as symbols of the Earthly Branches.”

Doan adds that Vietnam did not always celebrate the year of the cat and that it is unclear when the country switched from using the rabbit in its zodiac. Rabbit signs of the zodiac appear in many ancient Vietnamese texts. Uncertainty about switching between a rabbit and a cat has led to several other theories about its origin.

Sitting among decorative items for the Lunar New Year, a saleswoman waits for customers at her shop in Hanoi on January 14.

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Sitting among decorative items for the Lunar New Year, a saleswoman waits for customers at her shop in Hanoi on January 14.

Linh Pham / Getty Images

Quyen Di, a lecturer at UCLA, has several other possible explanations for Vietnam’s unique celebration. One relates to the landscapes of China and Vietnam.

“Originally, the Chinese lived in the savannah area, while the Vietnamese lived in the lowland area,” he says. “The inhabitants of the savanna prefer a nomadic life, close to the wilderness, and chose the rabbit as an animal that lives in the wild fields.”

In contrast, lowland people in Vietnam chose domestic cats. In addition, Di says, the Vietnamese consider rabbits to be “food animals” and chose the cat because they are considered “friends who live in their home.”

Workers plant flowers in front of a cat statue by Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi on Tuesday. These animal figurines are seen every year throughout Vietnam on the occasion of the Lunar New Year.

Nhak Nguyen/AFP via Getty Images

However, these aren’t the only urban legends surrounding the cat’s origin. Ask a Vietnamese aunt or grandfather, and you are sure to hear many other stories about the year of the cat.

Includes a lot of legend a The feast held by the Buddha or the Jade Emperor and a race between animals to determine their rank in the zodiac. In some myths, the cat is excluded from the zodiac; The rat pushed him into the river. In another, the cat finished the race and took its place as the fourth animal.