Celebrating the Lunar New Year: Dunhill Zodiac Pipes
For thousands of years, people have constructed monuments to honor the stars. Stonehenge, Macchu Piccu, and Chichen Itza not only exhibit humankind's obsession with the stars, but also some of humankind's grandest achievements. In modern times, we continue to celebrate these solar phenomena, but without having to drag giant stones thousands of miles. Instead, we celebrate them with a pipe.
Each year artisans and workshops will release annual series of pipes, such as Peterson's St. Patrick's Day pipe or Dunhill's Pipe of the Year. Dunhill also releases an annual limited run of pipes that celebrate the celestial bodies — their Zodiac pipes — which honor the Lunar New Year.
During several days in the winter, Eastern cultures celebrate the Lunar New Year, ringing in the spring season. These celebrations have endured for millenia, and with them have come countless traditions, one being the Zodiac. Each year represents an animal from a 12-year cycle, and Dunhill's Zodiac series highlights one of these animals every year with a special collectable edition steeped in ancient traditions.
Lunar New Year
For most Asian cultures, the Lunar New Year is the largest celebration of the year. Much like the holiday season in the West, Lunar New Year is marked by visits with relatives, delicious feasts, and hangovers. However, unlike the West, the Lunar New Year takes place at a slightly different time every year.
Unsurprisingly, the Lunar New Year corresponds to lunar cycles, such as when the full moon appears. Therefore, the date varies significantly depending on the phase of the moon. The Lunar New Year falls on the second or third new moon after the winter solstice, whichever phase falls closer to the lunisolar term Lichun, which marks the beginning of spring. Therefore, the celebration can fall anywhere between the 21st of January and 20th of February. Basically, imagine if Christmas could fall on any date in December. Despite how complex the lunisolar system might be to Western cultures, the hearts of the celebrations remain the same, both arising from ancient traditions.
The Lunar New Year has its origins in an Ancient Chinese Myth. According to legend, every year a village would have a spring festival. However, an evil beast named Nian would attack during the festival and eat the helpless villages. Understandably, the villagers were not interested in being a snack, so one year they decided to hide. Against the odds, one old man stayed behind to challenge Nian. He set off red fireworks and put up red papers, and this color turned out to be Nian's kryptonite, driving it away from the village. The villagers returned and celebrated the brave man, copying his actions every year to fend off Nian.
Each year represents an animal from a 12-year cycle
All across the world, people relive this myth each year. People will construct red lanterns, send letters in red envelopes, and light red fireworks. Although many of the festivities are a yearly tradition, some elements of the Lunar New Year change year-on-year. The most important changing element is the Zodiac, a rotating calendar on a 12-year cycle that represents each year with a different animal or mythological creature, with the 2023-2024 Zodiac being the rabbit. The heart of Dunhill's Zodiac series lies in the Zodiac tradition.
Another Chinese folklore story is the source of the Zodiac's origin. Legend has it that the Jade Emperor, one of the most powerful beings in Chinese myth, organized a race between several animal species: a pig, dog, rooster, monkey, sheep, horse, snake, dragon, rabbit, tiger, ox, and rat. As a reward for competing, the Emperor would award a year on the Zodiac to each animal, and would place them in order of how they finished. So, the Great Race began.
The Great Race took place on a river, and the animals had to cross from one side to the other. The animals set off, and went on their separate journeys. The first to finish was the rat, who rode on the back of the sturdy ox across the river, then jumped off and scampered to the finish line. The ox finished right behind in second place. In third place was the dragon, who seemed to have a decided advantage with its mythological power, but took a break from the race to help extinguish a fire in a village before finishing. In fourth came the 2023-2024 Zodiac animal, the rabbit.
Using its intelligence, creativity, and physical prowess, the rabbit decided to cross the river by jumping onto stones. The rabbit made rapid progress, but slipped up along the way, falling into the rushing river. In a stroke of luck, the rabbit grabbed onto a floating log that it rode to the shore. It hopped to the finish line and finished as the fourth on the Zodiac, and the rest of the animals followed.
... an evil beast named Nian would attack during the festival
The Zodiac is more than a mascot for a specific year, it also plays a role in superstitions about people's personalities. Much as with Astrology, many who celebrate the Lunar New Year ascribe personality traits to people born in a specific year of the Zodiac. People born in the year of the Rabbit are gentle, quiet, and intelligent, and their attention to detail and sense of responsibility lead to great career success. Furthermore, the rabbit represents the moon, which facilitates an essential relationship with the lunar cycle associated with the Lunar New Year. Every year of the rabbit, people create artistic homages to the animal — one of these being Dunhill's 2023 Zodiac series pipe.
Dunhill's Zodiac Series
Every year, Dunhill releases a new pipe in their Zodiac series to honor the Lunar New Year. The pipe is a specific shape dressed in their County and Shell Briar finishes. Dunhill typically releases 230 limited edition pipes for a specific finish; however, they exclude each number that includes the digit "4," which is an unlucky number in several Eastern cultures. Therefore, there are only 188 pieces of each finish, making the limited run even rarer.
Since at least 2007, Dunhill has released a yearly Zodiac series. In 2007, the start of a new 12-year cycle, Dunhill's Zodiac series was a simple Billiard. Since then, the shapes have ranged from lengthy Princes to well-bent Dublins. Overall, the pipes have always been traditional shapes, never straying too far from Dunhill's well known shape chart, although, they do include some signature touches that represent the yearly Zodiac.
The 2023 "Year of the Rabbit" Zodiac pipe is a quarter-bent Pear shape that captures the springiness of the rabbit with its forward-urging shape. Additionally, a 10mm silver band adorns the shank end, gracefully engraved with the visage of a rabbit. These collectable pipes also come with a leather case, decorated in the terracotta hues of the famous clay soldiers that guarded the tombs of Chinese emperors.
Much as with Astrology, many who celebrate the Lunar New Year ascribe personality traits to people born in a specific year of the Zodiac
The combination of a specific Zodiac, a limited series, and the Dunhill name make these pipes highly collectable. For pipe smokers that celebrate Lunar New Year, these pipes are even more popular, especially if their Zodiac animal corresponds with the pipe. Although Zodiac pipes are one of Dunhill's newer limited series, they are built on traditions that are thousands of years old, traditions that originated with the stars. As the moon continues to revolve around the Earth, one can only smoke a pipe and wonder what Dunhill's Zodiac series has in store for the future.
- "Product News 2022-2 Zodiac" from The White Spot
- "Chinese New Year Myths" from chinesenewyear.net
- "What is the Chinese Calendar?" from the Chinese Language Institute
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