The Lunar New Year will start tomorrow, Thursday 19th february 2015, and this time, it is the turn of the Sheep to represent, dominate or even jinx the year – for, whilst considered kind, mild-mannered, peace-loving and artistic, ‘sheep’ can also be deemed be to be weak, cowardly, and ‘destined for slaughter’, which doesn’t bode well for any babies being born this year! (No surprise then that mothers have been rushing to have their babies born before seeing out the current Year of The Horse).
That said, across the world, there is some confusion as to whether it will instead be the Year of The Goat, Ram, or Ewe given the ambiguity of the Chinese ‘yáng‘ 羊 character which is a genetic translation of all of sheep, goat, ram and ewe ie. an animal with horns that like to munch grass, whilst not strictly translatable into English at all! Apparently ‘yáng‘ needs to be further qualified to distinguish to which animal it may refer, for example, ‘shānyáng‘ 山羊 is goat (shān denoting mountain), ‘gōngyáng‘ 公羊 is ram (gōng denoting male), ‘mǔyáng’ 母羊 is ewe (mǔ denoting mother).
In the Philippines they are favouring Goat, ditto in Vietnam where the sign is less ambiguous. In India they seem to be going with Ram, as is also more often the case in Korea and Mongolia. In Japan the sign is that of a sheep, aligning them more with Taiwan, and China itself. Oh the joys of cultural differences and local interpretation, but these will have an impact on NPD, packaging design and other brand areas.
One thing is nevertheless certain, and consistent, no matter which animal, of which year, and that is that Chinese communities everywhere will be practising certain rituals that allow them to fully see out the old year, and embrace the new one, eg. cleaning, repairing and painting the home, changing wardrobes and hairstyles, and settling debts. Moreover, houses must be filled with flowers and decorations to ooze vitality (colour red), and maximise chances of wealth and good fortune for the coming year (colour gold). New Year’s Eve dinners will take place with families, followed by fireworks to shoo away evil, and to wish good fortune to neighbours and friends.
Here’s what we’ve seen so far of Chinese New Year – and feel free to send us any photos you have!
From Chinatown and around our offices in Soho, London:
Finally, some art:
And by complete coincidence it seems: