Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Lunar New Year!

Today starts the Chinese New Year which corresponds to the lunisolar calendar. The holiday is also called the Spring Festival and is celebrated by Chinese communities around the world. Festivities around this time are driven by a desire for prosperity and good will. For instance, houses are cleaned in hopes of expelling bad luck and making way for good luck. Debts are paid. Grudges are forgotten. Encouraging messages (such as which means good fortune) are hung up everywhere. Presents are given. On New Year's Eve, it is customary for families to reunite and enjoy dinner together.

As the new year begins, firecrackers and fireworks are set off in multitude to cast out evil spirits and celebrate a fresh start. On this day (the first of fifteen) dragon and lion dances are performed. Elders are visited by their descendants. Gifts of money are given to younger family members. People try to get as much good luck as possible.

Further festivities can be enjoyed for the next two weeks, including several birthdays. A couple examples are the God of Wealth's birthday tomorrow and the “common man's birthday” on January 22. On February 6 the new year's celebration is concluded with the Lantern Festival. For this fifteenth and last day of the Spring Festival, candles are lit and lanterns are paraded through the streets.

As you may have heard, 2012 is the year of the dragon. More specifically it is the yang water dragon. In Chinese astrological beliefs, birth years follow cycles. The twelve-year zodiac cycle goes like this: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and then pig. The ten-year elemental cycle is as follows: wood, wood, fire, fire, earth, earth, metal, metal, water, and then water. The two-year yin-yang cycle is, obviously, yin then yang. These terms combine to form one overall sixty-year cycle. Astrologers use these cycles to determine the character traits and fortunes of a person based on birth year. According to the sixty-year cycle, 2011 was the year of the yin metal rabbit, and 2013 will be of the yin water snake. The astrological beliefs are so widespread that Chinese communities experience an increase in birth rates during dragon years. Parents try to have their children born on those years simply because the dragon is the best zodiac animal. If you are born in a year of the dragon, so the astrologers say, you will be smarter, luckier, and more successful in life than if you were born any other year.


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