HANOI, Jan. 20 (Reuters) – As China, Japan and other East Asian countries prepare to celebrate the start of the lunar year of the rabbit on Sunday, the people of Vietnam will be an exception – welcoming it instead year of the cat.
There is no official explanation for when or why the Vietnamese embraced the cat instead of the rabbit.
Another smaller difference in the otherwise nearly identical celebrations of the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle is Vietnam’s adoption of the ubiquitous water buffalo in the Year of the Ox.
Ngo Huong Giang, a culture researcher based in Hanoi, said one of the reasons for choosing the cat could be that the term for the rabbit in the Chinese astrological ordering system is pronounced “mao” in Mandarin, which is similar to the Vietnamese word for cat. . Rabbit breeding is also not common in Vietnam.
What is certain is that the Vietnamese are not prepared to change their tradition.
“It doesn’t have the same strength as a cat,” Hanoi resident Ngo Quy Dung said of the rabbit, proudly noting that it was born 60 years ago in the Year of the Cat.
Another Hanoi resident, Nguyen Kim Chi, 64, agreed.
“The cat looks more majestic because it also looks like a little tiger,” she said as she snapped photos next to a large cat statue in the capital’s Central Park.
Images of cats have popped up in public areas across the country ahead of the Lunar New Year, along with a host of cat charms and gadgets for sale at street stalls.
Some cafes keep their cats in their shops to attract customers.
For most Vietnamese, the cat is a firm friend of the family that helps protect crops and food from rodents, while also chasing away evil spirits and bringing good luck, said researcher Giang. Despite this, cats can still appear on the menu in rural areas, although authorities have banned the practice.
Additional reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Edited by Robert Birsel
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