What year is it anyway? Happy New Year 4704

Happy New Year!!!! I suppose there are a lot of people wondering if I’ve lost my marbles, given that its “Feb 17th” and not “Jan 1st.” But Jan 1st is actually just one of many “dates” on which the new year is celebrated around the world, and the fact is, more people are likely celebrating the new year this weekend worldwide than did on Jan 1st, as Feb 18th is beginning of the year 4704 in most Asian cultures.

Colloquially, this is often referred to as Chinese New Year, but that’s really a misnomer, as far more than Chinese culture celebrates the new year today … everyone from Taiwan to Vietnam is celebrating in one way or another today. Other terms include Lunar New Year, but again, that’s not terribly accurate since other lunar based calender systems celebrate new year in entirely different months by our calender … Islam, for instance, tends to be one month ahead the Asians in declaring the start of the lunar year and for our 2007, the Islamic world began the year 1428 on Jan 20th. It may be worth our remembering in our dealings with the Islamic world that they are, very literally, still in the 15th century … anytime we argue that in this “21st century world we should have moved passed the pettiness of the past” we ignore the ethnocentrism of the statement. It is NOT, in fact, the 21st century in Tehran or Bagdhad … it is quite literally the 15th, and we betray our own ignorance to talk of it in other ways.

It goes the opposite direction as well. If we can talk about the Islamic world still being in the 15th century, we can ALSO talk about the fact that over in the far east, they are mature, just starting their 48th century. In China, the year is 4704, not 2007 (though I have no doubt they “adapt” to our calander for business) … the same is true for Jewish people, even more so … in their world, the year is 5767, so its the 58th century in Judaism.

Is any of this meaningful, any more than just numbers? Well, as usual, the answer is probably yes and no … in some ways, we can easily see how the fact that its 2007, and the “21st century” does have an impact on our psyche, on the way we perceive our world, but on the other hand, its not something that seriously affects our behaviour in any real-world way. We still go about our business today in much the way we did in 2006, or even 1997 in a general sense, and we will still be doing much the same thing in 2008, or 2017, most likely, so there is no direct behavioural change, but there’s also no question “21st century” is part of the way we parse the world around us, as members of western culture. While I can’t speak for people who live under other calender systems, I can’t see any reason why they would treat things any differently.

Calendars fascinate me quite a bit, and our relation to the way we mark the passage of time. I’ve touched on this in other posts here on the blog, including some rather extensive discussions of the Mayan calender system back when View from the Edge first started last year. And I must admit that “Chinese New Year” always leads me back to memories of Lagos, Nigeria in the mid 90’s (that’s 1990’s or 4690’s, depending on your perspective 😉 ) and the many wonderful Asian New year celebrations I attended both through my friends the Mings, as well as our friend and colleague Liu … I’ve never been treated to such a feast as during Asian New Year’s in Lagos. They are memories of decadence, without question, but also of fellowship and community, which is truly what feasts are about anyway … feeding our hunger for our fellow man as much as our hunger for food. So, for anyone celebrating the dawning of 4704 this weekend, I wish you all prosperity in the new year!!!!


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