Happy N-EWE Year (their pun, not ours!)

By 18th February 2015 Cultural twists No Comments

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).

happy nEWE year, from Singapore! (it just couldn't have worked with sheep, ram or goat!)

happy nEWE year, from Singapore! (it just couldn’t have worked with sheep, ram or goat!)

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 is goat (shān denoting mountain), ‘gōngyáng‘ 公 is ram (gōng denoting male), ‘mǔyáng’ 母 is ewe ( 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.

To serve kumquats at the end of the New Year Dinner is perhaps the most important tradition to usher in the New Year. Their Chinese name “Gam Gat Sue” suggests gold and luck because the Chinese words for these rhyme with Gam and Gat respectively. Also, the tiny green leaves symbolize wealth, and the kumquat shape symbolises unity and perfection. It's therefore a good omen to eat kumquats to start the new year, hence so many on sale here in this Oriental shop in Chinatown, London.

To serve kumquats at the end of the New Year Dinner is perhaps the most important tradition to usher in the New Year. Their Chinese name “Gam Gat Sue” suggests gold and luck because the Chinese words for these rhyme with Gam and Gat respectively. Also, the tiny green leaves symbolize wealth, and the kumquat shape symbolises unity and perfection. It’s therefore a good omen to eat kumquats to start the new year, hence so many on sale here in this Oriental shop in Chinatown, London.

 

Here’s what we’ve seen so far of Chinese New Year – and feel free to send us any photos you have!

 

From Singapore:

Shop window, Singapore

Shop window, Singapore

Nonya love letters for New year, Singapore

Nonya love letters for New year, Singapore

Sweet sheep treats and cupcakes in all ram and sheep shapes and sizes, Singapore

Sweet sheep treats and cupcakes in all ram and sheep shapes and sizes, Singapore

Gold pots for prosperity, Singapore

Gold pots for prosperity, Singapore

Decoration, Singapore

Decoration, Singapore

 

From Chinatown and around our offices in Soho, London:

Chinatown in London all dressed up for New Year

Chinatown in London all dressed up for New Year

Showing and sharing photos in Chinatown, London

Showing and sharing photos in Chinatown, London

They're going for Ram in this restaurant in Soho, London

They’re going for Ram in this restaurant in Soho, London

But, It's Sheep on the sponsored banners!

But, It’s Sheep on the sponsored banners!

And 'ewe' in this window in Chinatown, London

And ‘ewe’ in this window in Chinatown, London

Lanterns and decorations in London's Chinatown

Lanterns and decorations in London’s Chinatown

'Yang Yang' the big cuddly busking panda, Soho, London

‘Yang Yang’ the big cuddly busking panda, Soho, London

New Year Pudding in a restaurant in Soho, London

New Year Pudding in a restaurant in Soho, London

A whole host of events scheduled in Manchester for the next few days - workshops, parades, light festivals, dragon dances and so on

A whole host of events scheduled in Manchester for the next few days – workshops, parades, light festivals, dragon dances and so on

 

Finally, some art:

The Ram, as depicted by artist Chris Paul Daniels

The Ram, as depicted by artist Chris Paul Daniels

 

And by complete coincidence it seems:

A charitable ewe-nique Shaun the Sheep initiative in London and Bristol this spring

A charitable ewe-nique Shaun the Sheep initiative in London and Bristol this spring

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