Today is the Lunar New Year’s Day. The Chinese zodiac sign for the year is the rabbit. The lunar new year is far and away the largest holiday celebrated in Asia. China’s public holiday for Lunar New Year is seven days, from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the sixth day of the lunar calendar new year.
Offices, banks, factories, shops, and most non-essential services will close doors for a week’s holiday. Hotels and large retail outlets stay open and may even be busier than usual. School holidays are four weeks long, and migrant workers abandon their factory and construction jobs for weeks to return home. People in China will get the entire week off, but those in Hong Kong, Macao, and other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Korea only give one to three days off.
In Vietnam, the lunar new year is called Tết. It is by far the biggest holiday of the year. The celebrations often go on for a week or more. And it was during the Tết holidays of 1968 that the North Vietnamese launched the famous Tết Offensive, a country-wide series of attacks launched during the new year holiday which took both the Americans and the South Vietnamese by surprise because the week-long holiday was normally observed by both sides resulting in an unannounced temporary cease- fire.
I was in Vietnam during the 1968 Tết Offensive and remember all too well the numbers of civilians as well as military killed by the North Vietnamese. So while I welcome the holiday, I have indelible memories of the suffering inflicted by the North Vietnamese. My personal celebration, as a result, is minimal.