History of Chinese New Year in North Korea
Chinese New Year has been celebrated in North Korea since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations in 1961. The Chinese New Year is one of the most significant holidays in North Korean culture, and many North Koreans take the opportunity to visit relatives in China during the season.
North Koreans typically celebrate Chinese New Year in much the same way as other parts of the Asian region, with fireworks, family get-togethers, and the exchanging of red envelopes of money. North Koreans also have their own traditions for celebrating Chinese New Year, such as singing ‘The Forefathers’ Song of Blessing’, which commends the ancestors and expresses the hope for a happy new year.
Significance of Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is a time for North Koreans to pay tribute to their ancestors and take part in traditional folk customs such as praying and seeking good fortune from the gods. North Koreans also mark the occasion with a variety of special dishes and drinks. For example, it is customary to make dishes such as broiled pig trotters with Chinese herbs, jigaboo rice cake (a rice-based cake with chestnuts, dates, and pine nuts), and sesame balls (deep-fried pastry balls). These dishes are thought to bring good luck.
Despite the difficult economic circumstances, North Koreans strive to create a festive atmosphere during Chinese New Year. During the holiday, people visit each other’s homes and visit local markets or tourist sites, or even take part in festivals. Some Chinese companies also bring tourists to North Korea during the holiday period to take part in the festivities.
Economic Impact of Chinese New Year
The celebration of Chinese New Year has a tangible effect on the economy of North Korea. As Chinese tourists visit North Korea to participate in the festivities, there is an influx of money into the country. It is estimated that North Korea rakes in approximately US$1.3 million from Chinese tourism during the Chinese New Year holidays. This money is used to pay for fuel imports, construction projects, and other vital services.
There are also reports that North Korean merchants smuggling goods across the Chinese border are able to make larger profits during the Chinese New Year season when demand is high. The economic opportunities offered by Chinese New Year provide many North Koreans with an incentive to take greater risks and take part in international trade.
Political Impact of Chinese New Year
China is North Korea’s largest ally and supplier of food and fuel. Tensions between China and North Korea have been on the rise in recent years as Beijing has disagreed with Pyongyang’s nuclear program. However, when it comes to the celebration of Chinese New Year in North Korea, the official stance of both countries remains one of harmony and friendship.
North Koreans are not allowed to publicly express dissent regarding their government, but some North Koreans have used the Chinese New Year season as an opportunity to express their views. For example, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kim Dae-jung used the occasion to call for North Korea’s nuclear weapons to be destroyed.
Attitudes of North Korean Citizens towards Chinese New Year
North Korean citizens have shown a growing appreciation for Chinese New Year celebrations in the last few years, often showcasing traditional North Korean cultural activities at the same time. For instance, North Korean citizens often perform folk songs and dances during Chinese New Year celebrations, which attracts a lot of attention and admiration from tourists.
Despite the economic difficulties faced by many North Koreans, the celebration of Chinese New Year is seen as an opportunity to enjoy a rare period of freedom. In addition, North Koreans also see the Chinese New Year celebration as a chance to express their gratitude to the Chinese government and people for their support and assistance.
Cultural Exchange During Chinese New Year
In recent years, there has been increased cultural exchange between North Korea and China during the Chinese New Year period. Chinese officials have held public gatherings in North Korea to encourage North Koreans to embrace Chinese cultural traditions. North Korean students have also been invited to attend teaching sessions in China during the Chinese New Year season.
North Koreans are also becoming more aware of Chinese culture and traditions due to the increasing number of Chinese tourists who visit during Chinese New Year. The people of North Korea are beginning to take an interest in Chinese culture, and are learning more about it through the Chinese New Year.
Religious Significance of Chinese New Year
Religion in North Korea is officially discouraged, but many North Koreans still practice their traditional shamanistic beliefs. During the Chinese New Year, North Koreans perform religious activities such as praying for good luck in the new year and giving thanks to their ancestors. North Koreans also believe in the power of omens, superstitions, and fortune-telling, and this is incorporated into the Chinese New Year celebration.
While Christianity and Buddhism are banned religions in North Korea, some North Koreans still practice these faiths in secret. Chinese New Year provides a rare opportunity for these believers to openly express their faith and venerate their deities. Despite the restrictions and risks, many North Koreans still find a way to celebrate Chinese New Year according to their own religious beliefs.
The celebration of Chinese New Year in North Korea has significant cultural, economic, political, and religious implications. Despite relentless economic sanctions and political tensions, North Korean citizens have embraced the traditions of Chinese New Year and used it as an opportunity to observe their own religious practices and show gratitude to their Chinese benefactors. As North Korea’s relationship with China continues to evolve and develop, the nation’s attitude towards Chinese New Year celebrations is likely to continue to evolve as well.