Lunar New Year*

The Pig has a beautiful personality and is blessed with good fortune in life.

Last year I told the story of the Rat, the Dog and the Cat and how through sly manipulation the Rat became the first to reach the throne of the Celestial Ruler. In that telling I mentioned that the pig had spent part of the journey wallowing in the mud and need to bath before entering the Heavenly Presence. Given what is known of pigs many, myself included, accepted it as fact. It appears it may have been a rumour spread by a mangy pack of disgruntled – and hungry – wolves.

The Jade Emperor awaits the arrival of the animals.

Before the Celestial messenger arrived to announce the race a marauding wolf had destroyed the fine house the Pig had made himself and his family. Fortunately they were able to escape the wolf’s desire for a feast of pork but there was little left of their home. Pig had just finished rebuilding a new home – stronger and more protected than their previous one – when the heavenly summons was received. Pausing only to assure the safety of his family he trotted off for the Gate of Heaven. When he arrived he was still begrimed with the dirt and dust of his chore. He was a proud pig and had no wish to appear in this state before the Jade Emperor. He stopped to bathe before approaching the Celestial Throne. He was the twelfth to arrive and though late was still granted the honour of decreeing the blessings of the New Year. When he returned home he found that the wolf had once again tried to make a fine dinner of his little family. But he had built true and strong and his family was unharmed. Being a joyful soul the Pig accepted his place as the last of the Twelve Celestial Animals but revelled in being amongst the first in good fortune.

A left click will take you to one of the many horoscopes for the year 4717. I can’t guarantee the accuracy but we can always hope.

Whatever your horoscope may predict I wish you and yours:

Gung Ha Fat Choy – Gong Xi Fa Ca

*I was reminded by Laurent and by my blog buddy Debra’s post for today that it is not exclusively “Chinese” New Year but a new year for any region that follows the Lunar calendar: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Suriname as well as Mainland China. So I have changed to title of the post to honour everyone who is celebrating the arrival of 4717.

On this day in 1905: In Mexico City, the General Hospital of Mexico is inaugurated, started with four basic specialties.

Gung Ha Fat Choy – Gong Xi Fa Cai

dogpawtext [Converted]With the appearance of the new moon last evening a goodly portion of the world’s population welcomed in a New Year: the year of the Earth Dog – Wu-Xu, the 35th year in the 60 year cycle of the Chinese Calendar. And though we tend to think of it as Chinese Festival it is celebrated with many of the same traditions in other countries in Asia – Tết Nguyên Đán, the Feast of the First Morning of the First Day in Vietnam began today. And in one form or other the New Year is observed in Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia – and almost any place where there is a large Asian presence.

And of course people are turning to the Asian Zodiac for predictions for the New Year.

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A left click will take you to your horoscope for the Year of the Dog – keeping in mind that the management is not responsible for what the future does or does not deliver.

You will notice that there are twelve animals in the Asian Zodiac.  However have you ever noticed that one animal is conspicuous by its absence:  the cat.  The dog, her traditional enemy is there as is the rat, her traditional prey.  But unless you count the tiger there is no tabby present amongst the sacred twelve.  Where in does lie a story.

At one time the Dog, Rat, and Cat were great friends – wherever one was seen the other two were sure to be nearby.  One day the Jade Emperor decided to create a map of the sky or Zodiac to guide his earthly subjects.  A message was sent out to all the animal kingdom commanding that they present themselves at the Celestial Throne.  It was further decreed that the first twelve animals to arrive would be honoured with stars on the Zodiac along with the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water.

All the animals were in a state of excitement and none more so than than the three friends.  Unfortunately the Cat had a bad habit of oversleeping but assumed that her two friends would wake her when the time came to set out.  In their excitement – and in their desire to be the first – the Dog and the Rat forgot about waking their friend and at the appointed hour set off.  Along the road to the Celestrial Throne they met the Horse, Tiger, Ox, Snake and other animals.  All the animals wanted to be honoured with a place on the Heavenly map;  however like many travellers a few got delayed or waylaid by adventures, or sometimes misadventures.  But those stories would be for another time as our concern is for the trio of friends.

Jade-Emperor
Surrounded by his Celestial court the Jade Emperor awaits the arrival of the animals that will make up the Heavenly Map that decrees the fate of mortals.

The Rat noticed that the Ox seemed to be making the greatest progress and being a bit of a sly one he pleaded weariness and ask for a ride on the Ox’s back.  The Ox agreed provided the Rat would help the hours pass with singing (rats being known for their glorious voices and endless repertoire of songs and ballads).  The Rat, who loved to sing and indeed knew a number of songs, climbed on the Ox and proceed to entertain his burly transporter all the way to the portals of the Jade Emperor’s Throne Room.  Only once did he interrupt his carolling: he saw his friend the Dog and called out to him but the Dog was occupied with chasing a stick that was being thrown by a little boy and did not answer him.

Meanwhile back at their home the Cat aroused herself from her slumber, stretched, licked her paws, and looked around.  Where were her friends?  Then she remembered – the Zodiac, the Jade Emperor, the journey to the Celestial Throne.  Her friends had forgotten her!  Without even pausing to groom herself further she took off.

As the Ox approached the presence of the Jade Emperor he gave a little snort,  he was almost assured of first place as the other animals were lagging behind.  But as they reached the portals of the Celestial Throne Room the Rat jumped off his back and scurried across the room, ran up to the feet of the Jade Emperor and made his references.  The Jade Emperor declared him the first animal of the Zodiac.  The Rat, always a bit full of himself, resisted the urge to stick out his tongue at the animals behind him as he was led to a place of honour.  The Ox was not pleased but it would have been impolite to snarl and stomp in the presence of the Celestial Gods and since he was a placid creature by nature he accepted his place with quiet dignity.  The other animals followed: the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Ram, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog and the Pig.

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An unique Chinese painting of a cat waiting in ambush. The painting is signed and dated by Ji Biao, on the fifth day of the New Year of jimao (30/1/1819).  It was believed that painting cats on this very day would ensure the protection of the household from pests throughout the year. V&A Collection

Our friend the Dog was a little disappointed when the Jade Emperor failed to notice the stick he had dropped at his feet but wagged his tail with joy at being amongst the chosen.  The Pig, who had stopped for final roll in a mud puddle and had to wash before entering the Celestial presence, had just placed his snout on the foot of the Jade Emperor when our friend the Cat came scampering across the crystal floor.  But she was too late, if only by a whisker.

Cat turned and glared at her two untrustworthy friends.  Dog, not always the quickest of beasts, approached his old friend expecting her to full well rejoice in his good fortune.  He was startled when she hissed at him and showed her sharp claws.  He made several other approaches but each time was rebuffed by his former friend. When Rat saw the greeting Dog was getting he scurried away hotly pursued by the Cat bent on having her revenge.  The chase caused a small uproar in the Celestial Throne Room and it was noted that the Jade Emperor was seen to frown.

We do not know if Cat caught Rat on that occasion but we do know that the bond of friendship that had encircled the friends had been broken.  Cat’s ancestors have never forgiven Dog and Rat for their duplicity.  To this very day when a dog approaches a cat they are often rebuffed in the rudest manner and fights have been known to break out sometimes with sad results.  And as for rats, well we know their fate if caught by a cat.

Chinese-Fu-Symbol

On this day in 1863: A group of citizens of Geneva founded an International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, which later became known as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

 

 

A Time to Crow

Gung Ha Fat Choy – Gong Xi Fa Cai*

*Wishing You Prosperity

Today begins the celebration* of the New Year in many Asian cultures.  Though we here in the west we refer to it as “Chinese” New Year it is observed by many other Asian cultures: Vietnam,  Mongolia, Korea and Tibet all base their observation of the Festival on the Chinese lunisolor calendar64614572_s.  It was also observed in Japan until 1873 when the country adopted the Gregorian calendar and January 1st began the New Year.

The appearance of the moon last evening began Ding-Youg, the 33nd year in the 60 year lunisolor cycle; the 78th cycle since the invention of the Chinese Calendar over 4000 years ago.  Last year I wrote about the ancient method of combining the Celestial and Terrestrial Stem during the 60 year rotation employing variations of the five elements of Chinese thought and the twelve animals of the Zodiac.   This year the element is Artificial Fire and the animal the Rooster: the year of the Fire Roster.

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Where You Born in the Year of the Rooster?

People born in the year of the Rooster (1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017) are observant, hardworking, resourceful, courageous and talented.  They are always on the go which can prove tiring for less active friends and colleagues.  They also have a certain air of self-confidence which can often lead to them being vain and boastful.  They are outspoken, honest to a fault and loyal in their friendships. Their desire to be the centre of attention can be annoying to others around them and try the patience of even their closest friends.

What Does the Year Hold for Us?

**In General?

Conflicts, controversy and heated debate can be expected during the year of the Fire Rooster. Whether it is needed or wanted by the masses its cocky presence and fearless action will bring about change. The Rooster is always ready to take on any challenge with an arrogant strut of confidence and a progressive attitude.  It’s a difficult combination to beat.

This year is perfect for those who strive to reach the ultimate level of life mentally, physically and financially, but not so good for those who favour being lazy or living a life of indolence. Don’t expect much in the way of empathy or caring or you’ll be sadly disappointed.   This is a year of condemnation, fault-finding and pointing fingers at those who haven’t lived up to expectations and promises made. If you strive for perfection and accomplishment anything is possible however should you lack discipline you will be criticized and left behind.

**And for Canada?

roster-toyCanada will strengthen its relationships within the global network of countries fighting for freedom and peace on earth. The contributions made by this nation will set an example on the world platform that will inspire others to follow suit.

The 2017 Fire Rooster year will radiate authority and precision in order to bring about control, however not without plenty of drama to assure his presence is felt on a world level. This is a year where pressure and persuasion will be applied to vie for power, making it necessary to join forces with those who share the same values and environment concerns.

And as individuals?

A left click on the Zodiac will lead you to the predictions for your sign in this Year of the Fire Rooster.

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And in the tradition of the hui chen or luck papers that are posted around homes and workplaces I will give each of you the following wish for the coming year:

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May all your wishes come true.

* A 15 day event in China, 3 days in the other countries observing the Festival.

**These two entries have been adapted or taken from the Toronto Sun (yes I know that’s a first for me but….) which also includes predictions for the United States and the United Kingdom.

On this day in 1573: Articles of the Warsaw Confederation are signed, sanctioning freedom of religion in Poland.

 

Gung Ha Fat Choy – Gong Xi Fa Cai

With the appearance of the new moon tonight a good part of the world’s population is welcoming in a New Year: the year of the Fire Monkey – Bing-Shen, the 32nd year in the 60 year cycle of the Chinese Calendar.  And though we tend to think of it as Chinese Festival it is celebrated with many of the same traditions in several other countries in Asia – as an example Tết Nguyên Đán, the Feast of the First Morning of the First Day in Vietnam begins today.  And the Festival is observed in Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia – and almost any place where there is a large Chinese presence.

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With first day of the celebration come the predictions for the coming year and here is at least one fortune-teller’s take on what we can expect:

For all 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, provided you demonstrate endurance and patience, 2016 is the perfect time for receiving invigorating energies.

If you start a new project, make sure you get associated with the right business partners, as new sparkling energies also mean heavier risks in case of failure. At work, provided you stay quick, focused and surrounded by the right people, your business might become mature enough for takeoff in 2016.

猴The Year of the Fire Monkey being propitious for regular money supply, it is also the right time in 2016 for families and couples to reconsider their daily relationships and break the routine.

2016 is not for habits and negative energies are quickly repelled. The combination of Fire with the sign of the Monkey brings vitality and innovation to both business and personal relationships.

During 2016, political tensions are stronger as conservative governments and financial markets get a harder time. People and money are moving around the planet at an even faster rate, and only the most resourceful and risk-taking individuals amongst the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac are promised great success in 2016.

It’s also perfect time for you to reconsider part of the organization of your social life, as some friends suddenly behave more bitter and jealous, leaving you disappointed and disengaged.

2016 still is a year of optimism, cheerfulness and happy family gatherings.

Well it’s good to see that there is room for optimism and cheerfulness in the coming year for us all; but how is it going to be for specific signs in this year of the Monkey:

This is a generally auspicious year for Rats, Oxen, Dragons, Horses, Monkeys, Roosters and Dogs. This could be a difficult year for Tigers, Snakes, and Boars. Rabbits should beware their finances. Sheep should take care of their health.

zodiac-map

Amazing Year for: Rats, Dragons, Monkeys – brings charm and confidence. Unstable but dynamic!

Positive Year for: Goats, Rabbits, Ox – improvement in all areas of life. Progress finally!

Exciting Year for: Roosters, Horses – Tricky situations abound. Enjoy the stimulation!

Complex Year for: Tigers, Snakes, Boars, Dogs – strong focus and objectivity brings the best results.

It is a tradition to send family and friends  Huichun (Faichun) or good luck couplets to hang around the house in the hope of bringing luck in the New Year.   Chun lian is a special type of couplet composed of two poetic lines matching both sound and sense that is used only during the New Year.  Often Huichun offer wishes of prosperity, gold and good fortune in business but as it has been in the past my wish for all my family and friends in the year of the Fire Monkey is something more important than wealth and promotion:

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On this day in 1879: Sandford Fleming first proposes adoption of Universal Standard Time at a meeting of the Royal Canadian Institute.

Gung Ha Fat Choy – Gong Xi Fa Cai –

*The traditional Chinese New Year’s greeting in Cantonese and Mandarin

Today is the fifteenth and final day of the celebration of the 6th year in the 12 year cycle of the solar-lunar calendar in most Asian cultures.  According to the astrology and legends of Northern Asia this is the year of the Snake.

And the predictions for the coming year:

After the turbulent year of the Dragon, the snake is a more positive sign, and it will likely bring advances in science, education and research. It is important to be open-minded during the year of the snake, which will be an exciting 12 months. Every one should be on the look-out for jealousy and secrets that work against their  interests.  It will be a year filled with new and different challenges.

For an individual horoscope for your own lunar sign why not check here.  But remember that much the luck for the year begins on your birthday – so in my case the predictions won’t take hold until December.

The first month of the lunar calender is Yuan and the old Mandarin word for night was xiao: so today is the Yuanxiao (元宵节) or Lantern Festival.  The evening of the first full moon of the New Year is celebrated by filling the night with the light from lanterns and solving riddles inscribed on the lanterns, lighting candles outside houses to guide wayward spirits, eating glutinous rice balls (yuanxiao or tangyuan) and meeting with family and friends who are like family.

 In earlier times it was also a busy time for matchmakers:  young people went out chaperoned by parents or family and introductions were made between marital prospects.  With time the romantic (?) aspects of the festival gave way to the more generally festive in Northern countries; however it is still celebrated in Malaysia as a day when single women write their contact on mandarin oranges and throw them in a nearby lake or river.  The young men collect the oranges and eat them.  The taste is a good indication of how their relationship with the young lady will turn out – sweet or sour. Apparently the demand for sweet oranges is rather high this time of year.

The stories of how the Lantern Festival came to be are many and vary from place to place and often from century to century.  Some are very simple – Taiyi, the ancient god of heaven had 16 dragons and used them to control the destiny of the human world. Emperor Qinshihuang, who first united China, held the first Lantern Festival to ask Taiyi for good weather and health.

Perhaps the most complex also explains the name of the rice balls eaten on the last day of the New Year.   During the Han Dynasty a young maid at the palace of the Emperor was about to jump to her death when she was stopped from this rash act by a wish old man.  He discovered that she was despondent because she had not seen her family and done her filial duty in many years.  The wise man promised that she would see her family by the end of the New Year.

He set up a fortune-telling booth in the town and everyone who came to him to hear their fortune for the New Year was told the same thing:  on the 15th day of the new year the God of Fire would send a spirit dressed in red and riding a black horse to burn down the town.  The maid pretended to be the fairy and came with a decree on the 13th day warning the Emperor of the impending disaster.

The Emperor turned to the wise old man and asked for his advise.  The old man told him that the God of Fire love to eat tangyuan, those sweet, round glutinous rice balls stuffed with sweet sesame, peanut and red bean paste.   The Emperor decreed that everyone in town should make tangyuan to worship the God of Fire and hang red lanterns outside their homes and light fireworks.  This would both placate the God and deceive him into believing the town was already aflame.

That evening the whole town, including the young maid’s family, gathered outside the palace to gaze in wonder at the decorations and feast on the sweets.  The maid and her family were reunited, the festival was a great success with the people and the Emperor hailed for saving them from the anger of the God of Fire.  It became and annual celebration and since the little maid had cooked the best tangyuan both the dish and the festival ever after bore her name:  Yuan Xiao.

Other than yaunxiao, tang yuen is also eaten during auspicious family celebrations and Winter solstice or “dong zhi” (冬至), which usually falls on the 21st or 22nd of December. The round and sticky dumpling balls symbolize family closeness and togetherness.

Sadly the website that allowed me to send Hui Chun, the traditional greetings for New Year’s, no longer operates so I will send to all those I love, and to those that they love this greeting for the New Year.

And it bears a wish I wish for us all: May All Your Wishes Come True.

24 February – 1607: L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi, one of the first works recognized as an opera, receives its première performance.

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