“ LATE JANUARY / EARLY FEBRUARY. Chinatown. 10 days of celebrations starting on the 1st full moon after 21st January. „
What better occasion than the Chinese New Year for me admit to being a dyed-in-the wool sceptic where horoscopes are concerned - or a horosceptic, as we should perhaps be called? This applies to the western star-sign system, where the most cursory examination of friends and acquaintances will confirm that those born under the same sign do not always - or even often - share characteristics. It also applies to the Chinese animal-annual one, which to a westerner like me does not even offer the illusory coherence lent by long familiarity. Or maybe I just don't get it.
The Chinese may well think me a dope
To be phased by their strange horoscope:
I know each New Year's feast
Is assigned to a beast,
But beyond that I simply can't cope.
We've just finished the Year of the Snake,
A notion of which I could make
Neither head nor yet tail -
Such a dumb way to fail
Since that's all that there is to a snake.
The Year of the Horse is now here
Which again seems a little bit queer.
For, fine steed though the horse is
When run on racecourses,
What's that got to do with a year?
Next up is the Sheep, it turns out;
Which does nothing to banish my doubt,
After Sheep comes the Monkey
Who sounds kind of funky,
But really, what's that all about?
There's the Rooster, the Dog and the Pig,
(Though, sorry, I still just don't twig);
After them comes the Rat,
But it seems there's no Cat -
Maybe Cats judged it all infra dig.
There's the Ox and the Tiger and Rabbit.
If you give me a clue then I'll grab it
As to how to construe
This oracular zoo
(Or whatever abode they inhabit).
The Dragon comes next - indisputable,
But was ever a beast more inscrutable?
Such a mythical brute
Surely no one could scrute,
So I can't think of anything suitable.
Then at last will the Snake re-appear;
Yes, the end of this rhyme is now near,
Though I've just time to say
"Xin nián kuài lè"
Or more scrutably: "Happy New Year."
© Also published under the name torr on Ciao UK, 2014
January 26, 2009 marks the start of the Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year. This is based on the Chinese calendar and is celebrated for 15 days. In the Philippines, the people join in the celebration due to the fact that there are many Chinese immigrants who have settled in the country. Majority of them are business owners and have married locals making the country steeped with Chinese traditions and cultures. Most of them are established in big cities like Manila and Cebu where they are prominent figures not only in business but also in politics. There's a heavy concentration of Chinese population in the city called Binondo, particularly in Ongpin Street. The focus of the Chinese New Year celebration is held here where Chinatown is located. Several Chinese shops line the district and the streets will be packed with people as Chinese and locals alike usher in officially the Year of the Ox.
There's the traditional lion and dragon dance to mark the occasion. Almost all variety/talk shows in the country showcased a lion/dragon dance at the beginning of the show in the past few days to offer their participation to the coming event. The lion and dragon dance is a sight to behold because of the way they are manoeuvred by the dancers inside while snaking up and down given them motion and life while drums, cymbals and gong are playing loudly in the background. The lion is believed to bring some good luck while the dragon is the deity for water which ensures a productive year ahead. The dancers go from shop to shop to collect "hongbao" or red envelope hanging above the shops' entrance areas. According to some feng shui (the ancient practice of putting everything in line with the yin and yang philosophy) experts, the Year of the Ox is going to be a slow and steady year. It lacks the fire to keep the economy growing hence we are supposed to expect a harsher condition financially. However, people that were born in the Year of the Ox are supposed to be calm but full of tenacity. I was born in the Year of the Horse and the expert's prediction is that the Horse will have to persevere more this year but love is supposed to bring comfort. Well, I like the sound of that.
The Filipino people, including non-Chinese, prepare for this occasion by following some ancient traditions and practices. Some may have been twisted from their original forms but the objective remains the same. That is to bring in the good luck of the New Year and drive away the misfortunes of the previous year. Before starting anything the house should be cleaned before the New Year to sweep away bad elements. Some suggestions I've seen and heard over the years are as follows; one should prepare a bowl of garlic to bring in wealth and luck, spring onions for married couples to add love to the union and a wreath of fruits consisting of 13 oranges or ponkans with a pineapple at the centre. A red ribbon should be tied around the pineapple's crown. You can also include a root crop called Gabi (kind of like taro) tied with red ribbon for the whole family's good luck. My mother is a big follower of this custom. Although, we live in the province and there are only few Filipino-Chinese (Tsinoy, as we fondly call them) who celebrate the festival in this part of the country, she still adheres to all the necessary rituals in keeping with the Chinese New Year spirit. I would often present my arguments in the past that none of these really matter because there's not an ounce of Chinese in our blood, but she can't be deterred so I have just stopped bothering her and pretty much learned to go with the flow.
As of this writing, the household is busy preparing for tonight's feast. We are going to cook Biko, glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and latik (brown sugar boiled in coconut milk). One of the most famous foods for this particular occasion is the Tikoy (nian gao). Tikoy and Biko are sticky and sweet foods that are supposed to make the good fortunes stick to those who eat them and make the bonding of the family sweeter. We will share a meal at midnight to greet the New Year with abundance. We have skipped some practices like the money in hongbao distributed among the members of the family. In the past, my mother will bury hongbao in a heap of rice and we would dig into it in the morning following New Year's Day and get our share of envelope. My mother would slip in Php20.00 to Php100.00. Of course, I would cheat and take a peek inside the envelope before I would fish out my share. Who wants to end up with a lower amount? This, however, is always present in Chinese families' celebrations. There are also fish, cotton, water, salt and sugar displayed on the table. These are the basic needs of man in his daily life and to avoid shortage of these, one has to offer these items to be blessed when the New Year comes in. Just like the traditional Western New Year, there will be firecrackers at midnight to meet the brand new year with a bang and to drive away evil spirits. For additional individual lucks, there are charms and crystals one can wear to protect one's self from bad spirits. But for me, these are just business opportunities for amulet dealers.
Red is a big colour in Chinese tradition. Anywhere you look, this colour dominates the festivities and it is said to help bring in that much needed luck. Shops and houses are decorated with red lanterns and ribbons. Red clothes and undergarments are also worn. At midnight, doors and windows should be opened wide to welcome in the New Year and let the old one out. In the past, we would burn a huge candle with a dragon design at the threshold of our house. The particular meaning of this escape me but again it has something to do with good luck. I think, some non-Chinese Filipinos participate for the sheer fun of it. It is again one way of getting the family together and share the year's harvest or income. In essence, we celebrate this to give thanks for having survived the past year and for enjoying good health and fortune. Family is considered fortune. Superstitions or not, it is a good and meaningful celebration and a nice break from our daily chores.
In Western observance, New Year's resolution is the way to improve the coming year. While feng shui experts offer some advice what one can do physically to improve his luck and fortune by preparing these tangible items, it is always tagged with advice that perseverance, hard work, patience and all these other virtues determine and shape a man's future. Mother fate can only do so much. But these traditions date back to ancient times and bring identity to the Chinese community and set them apart from the rest of the world. And Chinese cultures are deep-seated in Philippine society and have influenced the people in so many ways that taking part in this celebration is a good way to show solidarity and spirit.
Chinese New Year is celebrated by all Chinese across the world. In my younger days, Chinese New Year was a rest day, school's out and the workplace is closed for the holiday. As I get older, I have discovered more about this tradition that I have taken for granted.
Chinese New Year,' Xin Nian' also known as Spring Festival falls in January or February every year. The calculation for the commencement of a new year is based on the lunar calendar; which correspond with the moon cycle. Hence, the date differs year by year. Chinese New Year celebrations last for 15 days, the first two days observed more prominently. This year, Chinese New Year will begin on the 26th January, 2009.
There is a mythology about Xin Nian that is being told to me as a child. According to legends, a mythical beast called, 'Nian' visit villages on the first day of New Year, terrorise the villagers and devour their livestock and crops. To protect themselves against 'Nian', the villagers would put food at their doorstep. It is believed that the beast would eat the food prepared and would not attack the people. There was also another tale about the beast scared away by a child wearing red clothing. Hence if you would often see homes in red decorations like red lanterns, red scrolls and red banner at the door and there are usually the symbolic red in New Year's attire. Firecrackers made into the shape of bamboos are fired to frighten away the beast.
Like Christmas, preparation for Chinese New Year starts a few weeks earlier. There will be preparation of food, cakes, tarts and biscuits which are make to be given away as gifts and to serve their guest during the celebrations. Young couples will buy gifts for their elders as a form of respect and to thank them for their guidance. The homes will be given a good clean as it is bad luck to bring an unclean home into the New Year. This is also the time for new things, new curtains, and new furniture if needed. Most importantly, new set of clothes to wear during the celebrations and yes, it will usually be in shades of red.
The most important meal is the reunion dinner on the eve of the New Year. This is the dinner where everyone in the family, from grandparents to grand children gathered for a feast. As from the word reunion dinner, it is a time for family to reunite, mend ties and celebrate. After dinner, some families would visit the flower market or participate in some outdoor celebrations. This is the night where children are not asked to go to bed early. There is a belief that the longer a child stays up on Chinese New Year's Eve, the parents would enjoy longevity. It is called 'Shou Sui'
The first two day of the Chinese New Year is the time for visiting. There is a hierarchy here; the eldest in the family would always be visited by the youngest members. If the grandparents are still living, then it would be in that order of seniority. Two mandarin oranges are usually presented to the host together with a greeting such as 'Xin Nian quai le' which means Happy New Year. The host would then return the gesture with a different set of mandarin oranges. Mandarin oranges symbolise gold nugget from ancient China.
During the celebrations, auspicious words are exchanged. For example, you would say, 'Good luck for your studies' for a student, 'May you have a successful career' for a working person, 'Good health be with you' for the elderly and 'May your business prosper' for business people. With well wishes flowing everywhere, it's hard not to start the New Year positively.
This is also the time when married couples will give red packet, 'Hong Bao' containing money to children, singles and the elders. It is a symbol of good luck to children for their studies, singles to find the right partner and the elders for good health. The amount of money in the red packet varies usually depending on the relationship and it will be in even denomination.
There are many code of practice during the Chinese New Year celebrations, which some would call superstition. Though I don't think there is much truth in it, somehow as it is ingrained inside me, I do unconsciously follow some of the practice.
Some of the practices are:
-Opening windows and doors to bring good luck into the New Year.
-Homes have to be cleaned before the New Year and no one should clean the house especially sweeping the floor on the first day as it will sweep away good fortune for the New Year.
-Black and white is symbol of death and bad luck and should not be worn during the celebrations.
-Used words that mean abundance in conversation, avoid words like 'finished',' loosing', or 'death'
- Argument and foul language are inappropriate and discourage during the Chinese New Year.
-Certain dishes are consumed for good luck, for example, there is a raw fish salad that is commonly serve during the Chinese New Year period in Malaysia and Singapore and it symbolises continuous abundance and wealth throughout the year.
For many Chinese, Chinese New Year is a new start, a new beginning. The codes of practices or superstitions are basically to ensure a good start into the new year. I have never bother to understand them but sometimes, after a lousy year, I do want to be able to leave that behind and start a fresh New Year.
And I have an excuse to do just that.
Happy Chinese New Year to all the Chinese members, members who celebrate this joyous occasion and those who want to have another chance to start the new year again.
Chinese New Year is the most important festival for all the Chinese, on regard you are celebrity or normal, abroad or at home, young or old, this is everyone's festival.
In China, the date of spring festival is according to the calendar of agriculture, because agriculture is the most important fair in ancient China. It will mostly in Jan or Feb. By that time, all the Chinese people became to think their family, and their hometown. So, almost 200,000,000 will move toward home in all kind of transportation way - bus, train and plain, that is the darkest time for the transport system of China. But all of these difficulties can stop the Homesickness of Chinese.
At the night of spring festival, Chinese family will get together and talk about each other - what they did and what they are going to do - they call in 'Gua Nian', that is say to pass the old year to a new one. People will eat Dumplings and other Chinese food together. At the next day, people will go out and meet their relatives and neighbors - bring with their best wishes.
If you want to travel to China for the spring festival, you'd better make a careful plan. Because traffic the many times burden than ordinary time, and you may find it so hard to order air ticket and hotel. But you will experience the real Chinese culture if you can live with a Chinese family - it will also reduce the cost.
Its a new year for new beginnings and the new Chinese year this time will be The Rooster.
The year of the rooster comes around every twelve years and if your born under or between any of the dates below then youre a rooster.
31.1.1957 / 15.2.1958
17.2.1969 / 5.2.1970
5.2.1981 / 24.1.1982
23.1.1993 / 9.2.1994
Anyone born this Chinese new year which starts in January will also be a rooster.
There are twelve animals in the Chinese year and each comes into play once every twelve years, each has a particular character which strangely enough you can relate it to your own character if you are know which animal you are.
I have a rooster child and she is very much like the character of the rooster, as are my dragon child and my goat child. Im a rat and I can even see the familiarities in my character of this sign.
The Rooster Character.
The rooster of course is a solar sign, as roosters rise with the sun. The rooster is also a proud creature and a guardian or protector of its family. Therefore the character of the rooster person will be honesty, frankness, very helpful and courageous. Although they can sometimes be vain and thoughtless and a little preoccupied with how they look. Nevertheless, the rooster will work hard at their jobs and succeed in what they choose to do, even though money may not be easy to handle.
The rooster person loves to spend money on clothes and nice things for the house. Luck wise the rooster might not have much as the rooster in its life has to scratch around in the earth to find food, so the rooster person has to work hard for what they want to achieve. If however the rooster person is born in the spring, they will have a better life as there is more abundance of food in spring for the rooster.
A rooster is very attentive, protective and kind, but can be a little jealous at times.
They do make a bad enemy as the rooster animal will usually fight to the death for his hens.
A rooster cannot resist admiration from others, but likes to spend holiday times in a quiet place. They hate for others to be nosy, especially in their private lives. They love to read and be with other people in their spare time. A lucky colour for them is yellow and this can sometimes be their favourite colour.
If thinking about which jobs are the best for them, consider sales director, the military, restaurant owner, teacher, farmer or representative.
THE ROOSTER CHILD
If like me you have brought up or are bringing up a rooster child, you might find this part interesting. I for one never lost my rooster child, I could always hear her when she was playing out, they have a voice that carries and will always be the on organising the crowd. The ringleader in most pranks and the leader of the group. They will be the loudest at parties and love to entertain, sing, recite poetry or arrange their friends to take part in plays and acts which have to be performed in front of an audience of parents.
They are alert, open and full of life, everything is interesting to them and they drink up knowledge like its water.
They get very enthusiastic about something new which interests them and will surprise you at how exceptionally gifted they will be at something which interests them, but it usually is not for long as their attention will go onto something new very quickly.
My daughter was always the top in school at reading and writing and won prizes at prize giving. She won the eisteddfod music festival in Wales when she was seven, getting herself on the television, after we had moved to Wales when she was five, reciting poetry in welsh.
She spoke fluent welsh at the age of eight and did lots of other surprising art work, poetry, dance as a child.
It wouldnt have surprised me if shed have been the next prime minister, but she soon went onto other things which interested her more.
The rooster child will always find new friends easily, they like to get to know people and are rarely shy. They get jealous sometimes and this can lead to tantrums and a lot of shouting or strutting around. Its a challenge bringing up a rooster child, but its never a dull moment.
THE ROOSTERS LOVE LIFE
The rooster has lots of charm and will have lots of admirers but they can sometimes be more interested in the number of admirers they have than the actual people who admire them.
They usually choose the one who they know can support them and be able to look after a family. They can sometimes be difficult to live with as like I said before they do get jealous, of other friends and if their independence is threatened.
If this jealousy is in play they can be very off hand or frank which can lead to hurtful remarks and arguments.
If you are in love with a rooster be careful not to flirt around, or over power them with passion as they like to take the lead and are very sensual on all levels.
They make very good parents and are aware of their responsibilities. If a rooster has made a commitment to you and your family they will stand by this as they are usually against divorce.
They make firm but warm parents and the children will not want for anything.
If you are married to a rooster then its best to keep your own finances or earn your own money because roosters are not good at budgeting, they love to spend money.
If your going out with a rooster and want to keep them, make sure you make them feel special, have good prospects for the future as they need security.
Share the same interests and be prepared to share the responsibilities of the family.
Tell them how intelligent and good looking they are as flattery will get you everywhere.
The rooster is a proud and good looking, they love to strut about and you will have to be prepared to keep up with their pace.
Have a wonderful new year, its going to be a good one at last.