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Let 2023 pull rabbit of hopes out of the hat

By Berlin Fang | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-01-16 07:18
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A rabbit-shaped decoration is seen at a shopping mall in Beijing, Jan 7, 2023. [Photo by Zou Hong/]

We have just witnessed the end of 2022, a year that brought hardships on many due to a lingering pandemic, a deteriorating economy and a disastrous conflict with far-reaching consequences. Every time we thought we had turned a corner, life threw another curveball at us. For a summary of 2022, I can only think of the powerful ending from William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury: They endured.

The coming lunar year is the Year of the Rabbit. I do not know what rabbit this coming year will pull out of the hat, but let me just say "rabbit, rabbit", a phrase people say at the start of the month for good luck.

At the start of a new year, it is customary for us to make good wishes. I do not know if wishing someone good luck or good fortune can help, but I have noticed that sending prayers and thoughts can work miracles. Among other things, it creates good vibes of care and attention to lift the spirits of those on their most difficult days.

Before the turn of the year, most of my relatives in China, including my 93-year-old mom, got COVID. My family and friends prayed, sent support and lifted each other in spirit. My mom overcame the illness, and so did other relatives. I appreciate having a large family to support one another, which made it possible to struggle together with hope, instead of sinking one by one in desperation.

Speaking of having a large family, I remember that in Western culture, rabbits are associated with fertility and renewal of life. They multiply fast, which can also symbolize new life and abundance. We celebrate the Year of the Rabbit every 12 years, but each year, on Easter Day, one sees Easter bunnies, which signify new birth and new life.

Birth rates are falling in many countries around the world, including China. May the new year bring hope, so that people would want to have children to embody and embrace that hope.

In the past year, many families struggled financially; it is only appropriate that we strive for economic recovery and growth. Rabbits are associated with fortune and luck. We can certainly use some of that after a year of bad stock performances and rising consumer prices.

Interestingly, the Chinese resort to some rabbit wisdom when it comes to financial investment, as shown in the proverb: "A shrewd rabbit has three caves." This proverb can mean — in terms of another proverb — that you should not put your eggs in one basket, or: "The rabbit that has but one hole is quickly taken" (English proverb). As a side note, a rabbit cave is also called a "burrow". A group of burrows is called a "warren", as in "Warren Buffett" (no relation).

Rabbits are also symbols of quickness and agility, which result from having good health. At the start of the new year, we make new year resolutions that involve gyms and diets. There are many types of diets, including the Paleo diet, which avoids sugar, and the Mediterranean diet, which includes unprocessed cereals, fruits, vegetables, some fish, dairy products and meat products. The ketogenic diet includes high-fat, sufficient protein and lowcarb consumption. While other elements vary, the common denominator of all healthy diets is "rabbit food", a common expression about leafy vegetables and other plant-based food.

Across cultures, the rabbit symbolizes innocence and simplicity; it is also associated with childhood. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland features the White Rabbit as a central character who guides Alice as she travels through Wonderland. Rabbit can also represent kindness and love: Margery William's The Velveteen Rabbit tells the story of a toy rabbit who becomes real through a child's love, a powerful story of transformation through kindness. May we remember these qualities. At the very least, do no harm, or be "harmless as a pet rabbit", especially to rabbit-like people who are known for their endurance. "Even a rabbit bites when cornered" (Chinese proverb).

To sum up, I hope I can borrow from some of the titles in John Updike's tetralogy (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit Is Remembered): In the Year of the Rabbit, run for good health, get richer if not rich and do not pass an opportunity for kindness worth remembering in your later years.

Happy New Year! I hope that by the end of the Year of the Rabbit, the keywords to come to our mind will no longer be: They endured. Instead: They enjoyed!

The author is a columnist based in Texas. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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