Happy Chinese New Year!

On the eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with family. Pigs, ducks, chicken, and sweet delicacies line the table. Children and adults set off firecrackers into the allies and night skies. The next morning, children greet their parents, parents greet relatives, and wishes for a healthy and happy new year are exchanged. Money is received in red paper envelopes, lanterns are raised, and couplets are hung. The Chinese New Year tradition invites one and all to reconcile, forget all grudges, and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.

My family never really celebrated the changing lunar year when I was little, besides the traditional gift of red envelopes. There was never a huge feast or other families to get together with (my family is characteristically not very outward or social), but I still possessed some level of understanding of how special such an occassion was for many other people around the world. I may not be familiar with it on a very personal level, but Chinese New Year is pretty much like the Western New Year, though Chinese (. . .).

Regardless, 2012 brings the year of the Dragon. The Chinese Lunar System is characterized by its relation to the lunar moon, but also its 12 zodiac animals. For those of you unfamiliar with the origins of the Chinese Zodiac animals, read here, though I’m quite positive nearly everyone is aware of the stories to some degree (the actual story is near the bottom). I was discussing birthday dates with linzian just this evening, and after noticing that I could not remember my father’s birthday (day and year), I finally realized that both my father were born in the year of the “Sheep.” Thus, since my birth year was easy to recall, it became a simple matter of subtracting by 12 until I reached the “logical” age for my father, and consequently the year he was born.

This system, I realized, is extremely practical. A child doesn’t have to learn a new answer to the question, “How old are you?” in each new year. You may scoff, but I’ve recently noticed that when I’m asked my age, I require more time to affirm that I’m 20-years-old. Old people, as one can imagine, probably lose track of their age, not only because the years accumulate, but probably also because they are rarely asked about their present age (who would want that?). Thus, every one merely has to remember that he or she was born in the “Year of the Dog” or their respective animal year. 2008 is the Year of the Rat, so any one who was born in the Year of the Rat is either 1 or 13, 25, 37, 49, 61, 73, 85, 97, or older (my goodness). In 2009, the person is still born in the Year of the Rat, but their age is now one additional year (2,14, 26, 38, 50…).

The system may be awkward in some scenarios, but it has its uses. I kind of wish I were born under the year of animal as cool as a Dragon, though, but what can I do about it?

Happy Chinese New Year! 恭喜發財, 新年快樂

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