x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Dragon of a year

Today begins the new year in Chinese cultural tradition. Around the world and in any calendar, the start of a new year seems to be a time for optimism.

Today is Chinese New Year's Day, the most important holiday in traditional Chinese culture. In China and much of East Asia, people said goodbye to the year of the rabbit last night, and today they are welcoming the particularly auspicious year of the dragon. We cordially wish the UAE's Chinese people Gong Xi Fa Cai.

The lunar new year brings days of celebration in China, and for expatriate Chinese around the world. The country's rapid urbanisation and industrialisation of recent years may have however drained some of the joy out of the day: the tradition of family reunions on the eve of the lunar new year has created notorious congestion on motorways, in trains and in airports. Cities empty out and villages swell with hundreds of millions of young adults who have gone home to visit.

This new year promises particular joy. In the Chinese zodiac, the dragon - and this year it is supposed to be a friendly aquatic creature, not a menacing fire-breather - is said to bring with it good luck, good crops and opportunity. In Chinese society birth rates often increase during dragon years, because dragon-born children are said to become leaders.

Optimism at the start of a new year seems to be a universal human characteristic, whatever calendar you follow. Gong Xi Fa Cai to us all then.