The vibrant and energetic (almost chaotic) displays for the Chinese Lunar New Year which begins February 3rd this year are stunning!   In the Asian markets, golden forsythia are everywhere and are festooned with red lanterns, red firecrackers, red envelopes and golden rabbits.  On this last weekend in January, I was happily overwhelmed with exotic fruits, colorful blossoms and fantastical ornaments.

Red Lanterns on a Tree in Winter

Once again, I’m struck by the timing of this “Spring Festival” that carries us through the end of January and well into the (usually) dreary month of February.  I’m inspired to bring the still tightly budded forsythia indoors to force blooms and tie red ribbons and homemade hearts on for my own Chinese New Year/Valentine’s Day/Early Spring celebration. Those of us that live in northern towns are just now entering that long time of year where, as the poet Willa Cather put it, “Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen.”

The Nien in Lantern Form

The use of that unmistakable Chinese Red goes back to a mythical beast called the Nian who, as ancient villagers discovered,  is frightened by the color red and by loud noise.

I think we all struggle against our so-called “mythical beasts” this deep into the heart of winter.  I propose we adopt a custom from the Chinese and hang red lanterns outside our doors, or inside our apartments, and cut those still tightly budded branches off to bring them indoors to create bursts of spring color.

As Victor Hugo wrote: “Winter is on my head, but eternal Spring is in my heart.”  In this deep winter, let’s celebrate the Year of the Rabbit with color, noise and life!

Let's fight the Nien (and our own Nien) with Red Lanterns in this Year of the Rabbit!!