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Many Chinese New Year customs have been widely observed for thousands of years. The family reunion dinner, pasting couplets and setting off fireworks are must-dos during Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival.
But for the upcoming Spring Festival, watching the Beijing Winter Olympics will also become an important activity in addition to more traditional ones.
The 2022 Spring Festival – the year of the Tiger in the Chinese lunar calendar – falls on February 1, just three days before the Winter Olympic Games officially opens in Beijing.
“The Olympic Games and Spring Festival share cultural connotations in common, as they both celebrate togetherness and harmony,” said Lou Xiaoqi, a cultural scholar and founder of Civilization Magazine.
“This year’s Winter Olympics coincide with the Spring Festival, so it will be a unique experience for all.”
Equal to Christmas in Western countries in terms of significance, the Spring Festival is the most crucial time of the year for family reunions in China. The precise origins of the Spring Festival are lost in the mists of time, but according to folklore, it has been celebrated for around 4,000 years.
Chen Haiming, director of the Center for Global Governance and Law, Xiamen University of Technology, said that the Spring Festival embodies the principle of “oneness of heaven and humanity,” representing the highest value of traditional Chinese culture and soul of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
The concept of unity between humans and nature has profoundly influenced all aspects of Chinese social life, and even shaped the idea of “green development,” which China lays particular emphasis on today, he added.
More importantly, the Spring Festival represents the value of family reunion and the pursuit of harmonious family relationships.
The yearlong yearning for a family reunion during the Spring Festival is manifested in the travel rush. During the Spring Festival season – a 40-day period known as ‘Chunyun’ – hundreds of millions of Chinese people will be on the move, cramming into trains, buses, cars and planes to reach family and friends.
Decades ago, the Spring Festival had little impact outside of China. But as the country’s economy grew, the holiday, which has enormous cultural significance in the Chinese-speaking world, has become more prominent.
Similarly, the Olympic Games, full of passion and extraordinary feats of athletic endeavor, were the sporting, social and cultural highlight of the ancient Greek calendar for almost 12 centuries.
One of the most important traditions from the ancient Olympics was the Olympic Truce, a peace accord that allowed warring Greek city-states to set conflict aside, celebrate togetherness, and experience peace inspired by sport.
The modern Olympic Games was revived in the 19th century by Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, who had read about the ancient Greek Olympics and believed the Olympic Games could contribute to world peace and international friendship.
As de Coubertin has envisaged, the Olympic Games have evolved into humanity’s largest and most diverse gathering. Every two years, the world watches in awe as athletes from up to over 200 countries and regions unite in competition at the Olympic Games.
Though the Olympic Truce does not stop wars, it has a vital contribution to enhance understanding, lower tension, and resolve conflict, all for the benefit of humanity.
“Actually, the modern Olympic Games is kind of a practise of building a community with a shared future for mankind,” said Lou.
Celebrating the Olympic motto at Beijing 2022
In 2021, the Olympic motto was revised for the first time in over 120 years, with the word “together” being added. The new motto now reads “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together.”
“In today’s fragile world with so much uncertainty, the Olympic Games are more than ever a powerful symbol of hope, peace and solidarity for all of humanity in all our diversity,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach wrote in the foreword to the Olympic Manifesto scroll.
As the world continues to battle a relentless virus while anti-globalization and unilateralism pose severe challenges to the international community, the 2022 Winter Games could not have come at a better time – the world needs to unite together and celebrate humanity.
Given that this year’s Winter Olympics coincides with the Chinese Lunar New Year, the Festival’s traditional focus on harmony certainly takes on a more global significance.
“The world today is in dire need of inclusiveness, which the Chinese culture of harmony without uniformity celebrates,” said Chen.
“Given the values and spirit embedded in the Spring Festival, it is a festival to be celebrated not only by people in China but also those around the world,” he added.
A fitting tribute to this occasion is the third edition of the Olympic Manifesto scroll published by Civilization Magazine.
The 60-meter-long scroll mainly centers on the Spring Festival and Winter Olympics, showing the integration of diverse world cultures. It also encompasses the festival culture of 23 host countries and 43 host cities of previous Olympic Games.
“This signifies that the culture of the East and the West meet in Beijing and develop with mutual learning,” explained Lou.