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2024: Enter the Dragon

2024 marks The Year of the Dragon on the Lunar calendar

10 February 2024 marked the official start of Lunar New Year; symbolised this year by the dragon. Although often called ‘Chinese New Year’ or Spring Festival, the event is observed throughout Asia and across the globe, with various countries following a multitude of traditions specific to their own culture.

In China, new year customs include; the wearing of all new clothing and exchanging of good fortune in the form of red envelopes containing money. This custom, says Chinese-born local business owner, Jeff “is more for the kids now.” He says, “We grown ups usually end up working harder over the festival season to make that cash for our own kids.”

Fellow local business owner, Leo, says “the old customs are definitely changing. It used to be that Spring Festival was the only time of year you would get new clothes but now people have more money for luxuries and they don’t depend on the red envelope so much.”

Most modern Asian families retain the custom of gathering together and feasting, as well as house cleaning to see in the new year. In Vietnam, Lunar New Year is known as Tết, during which time families sit down to feasts of fruit, and decorate their homes with kumquat trees and peach blossoms. In Korea, Seollal is marked by the consumption of tteokguk (a rice cake clear soup) which symbolises purification of the body in preparation for the coming year.

In China, it is common for the year of the dragon to coincide with a baby boom, as this creature is considered the most auspicious zodiac sign. Although clearly the only mythical animal to appear on the zodiac, for centuries dragons were indeed considered real.

First documented in 300 BC, the discovery of monolithic serpentine skeletons gave rise to the belief in dragons as genuine ancient fauna. These fossils were commonly ground down into powders and sold as medicinal cure-alls, long before the world ever conceived of dinosaurs.

Centuries later, the science of palaeontology emerged during which time extinct species were classified and studied through fossil records for the first time. Unfortunately due to centuries of misidentification, untold volumes of dinosaur fossil records were lost to history.

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