Lunar New Year is a traditional festival not only for the Chinese, but also for many countries. Especially because of the large number of overseas Chinese and the large scale of the Chinese Spring Festival, Lunar New Year is often a festive and lively day that is celebrated around the world every year. However, in English, whether it should be translated as “Chinese New Year” or “Lunar New Year” has become more and more controversial in recent years.
The Korean online media WOW Korea reported that the VANK (Voice of Korea Network Diplomatic Mission) has been actively promoting the Lunar New Year to foreign countries, asking them to “correct the name” of the Chinese New Year, not as “Chinese New Year”, but as “Lunar New Year”.
If the United Nations still uses the commemorative stamps to celebrate the Lunar New Year this year, the mission has sent a letter to protest against it. The mission said that Lunar New Year is not only celebrated in China, but also in other Asian countries, so it cannot be characterized as Chinese New Year.
The dispute over which New Year should be named has become a focus in recent years. Lunar New Year is a traditional Chinese name, and in mainland China it is often referred to as the “Spring Festival”. In other countries where New Year is celebrated, including Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other places, they all have their own ways of calling the New Year.
In Korea, it is called “설날”, in Vietnam, it is called “Tet” or “năm mới âm lịch” (Vietnamese New Year), and in Japan, there is no custom of celebrating Lunar New Year, but in some areas where it is still celebrated (such as Okinawa), it is called “Old New Year”.
Lunar New Year to become Chinese New Year
However, with the rise of Chinese nationalism in recent years, “Chinese New Year” is gradually being promoted, especially in English-speaking regions. For example, in 2018, Xinhua’s English article translated Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s Indonesian Happy Lunar New Year, “Selamat Tahun Baru Imlek”, as “China’s New Year”. The original text only contains the Lunar New Year, but when translated into English, it becomes the Chinese New Year.
In the same year, Liu Wen, a famous Chinese model, was criticized by netizens for “forgetting she was Chinese” and “being unpatriotic” when she used “Happy Lunar New Year” on her Instagram page to wish for the Chinese New Year.
Leo Suryadinata, a Chinese Indonesian scholar, pointed out that the term Chinese New Year is called Spring Festival in China and has never been associated with nationalism. However, the emphasis on nationalism in China in recent years has led some people to believe that the New Year should be celebrated as “Chinese New Year”. They even think that with the rise of China, Chinese people should be more “confident” and not using Chinese New Year is an act of “insulting” China.
Although the Chinese Lunar Calendar began in ancient China and the Lunar New Year is a traditional Chinese custom, Liao Jianyu pointed out that today’s Lunar New Year is no longer the monopoly of China or Chinese people. In the case of the Chinese in Southeast Asia, who all have their own national identity, the Chinese New Year should return to its original meaning, rather than using it to emphasize anything national or ethnic.