It is always cold in early February here in the northeast. Up here on Watch Hill, which looks down on the wide, frozen Hudson River, it can be especially windy and bone chilling in the winter.
In the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year, a date between January 21 and February 20. This means that the holiday usually falls on the second (or in very rare cases third) new moon after the winter solstice. In traditional Chinese Culture, lichun is a solar term marking the start of spring, which occurs about February 4.
This year, 2012, the holiday period begins on the first day of the lunar New Year, January 23rd. This year, according to the Chinese Zodiac, is the Year of the Dragon.
A dragon is a legendary creature. All legendary stories about Chinese dragons are from the sky, which means heaven in China. The image of dragon is blurred, misty, mystic, occulted, noble and untouchable. For China, it is the symbol of power from heaven. The Chinese emperor was considered the son of heaven. An emperor has the authority to send command to Dragons. One Chinese story mentioned an emperor killed a dragon in his dream. After 581 AD, Chinese emperors began to wear imperial robes with dragon symbols. During the Ching Dynasty (1644-1911 AD), the dragon can be seen everywhere on the roofs, doors, pillars, bridges, utensils in the forbidden city. The most powerful dragon is the five-clawed dragon. It appears only on the yellow imperial robe. Because of this, Dragon is one of most auspicious animals in China.
They say that Dragon has nine sons. People didn’t know too much about the Nine Dragons until Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). However, there is more than one version of the Nine Dragons story. One story is the following.
The Dragon sent its nine sons to help the first emperor of Ming Dynasty to conquer China. After completing the mission, nine dragons were preparing their journey to return to heaven. But the emperor wanted them to continue to help the Ming Dynasty. The nine dragons wouldn’t stay and the emperor couldn’t stop them. However, the emperor decided to play a trick on the most powerful dragon, the 6th son. He tricked the sixth dragon son to carry a magic stele with a carved inscription, which could suppress any ghost, spirit or evil creature. The 6th dragon couldn’t move under the magic stele, and all of his other brothers wouldn’t leave without him. However, they wouldn’t work for the emperor anymore. They decided to no longer show their dragon identities and turned themselves into evil creatures. Since then, the nine dragons have stayed in China.
The nine dragon have different themes, and they all have different versions too. We skip their names because all of their names are hard to remember. One version is:
• The 1st son loves music. The head of Number 1 son becomes a decoration for music instrument, such as two-stringed bowed violin (huqin).
• The 2nd son loves fighting. Many different handles of weapons have the symbol of Number 2 son.
• The 3rd son loves adventure and keeping guard. He has prestige and is the symbol of safety, harmony and peace.
• The 4th son loves howling. The image of Number 4 son can be found on the big bells. It is a symbol of protection and alertness.
• The 5th son loves quietness, sitting, fire and smoke. His image is often found in temples, such as on incense burners.
• The 6th son has the power of strength. He loves to carry heavy stuff to show off his magic energy. He is a symbol of longevity and good luck.
• The 7th son loves to seek justice. Chinese like to apply his symbol around law, court, or jail.
• The 8th son loves literature. Chinese like to put the 8th son as a symbol around steles. When used in this way, it is a symbol of knowledge or education.
• The 9th son loves water. He is a symbol to prevent fire disasters.
The Tiger is the 3rd sign in the cycle of 12 animals that makes up their Zodiac. The Tiger is the sign of courage that legend tells us wards off three household disasters; fire, thieves and ghosts. On this day one should be happy, to have a smiling face and refrain from quarreling and being critical. The Tiger, being a beautiful animal, is feared and revered equally. It symbolizes, in many Asian cultures, courage, power, passion and regal strength. In the celestial sense of Feng Shui, it is one of four animals which include the Green Dragon, the Red Phoenix, the Black Tortoise and the White Tiger. The Tiger is the female counterpart to the male dragon. The ancient Chinese sages saw in the markings of the Tigers forehead the Chinese character “Wang” or “King.” In the days of Imperial China, the dragon was the insignia of the Emperor, and the Tiger was the military emblem of the emperor’s greatest, most fearless, and victorious commanders. The Tiger also represents earth, while the Dragon represents heaven. The Tiger is a natural born leader, who is courageous, passionate, daring, active, and self-assured. The Tiger can be optimistic, passionate and independent, along with this independence often comes rebellion and unpredictability.
Alongside the 12-year cycle of the animal zodiac, there is a 10-year cycle of heavenly stems. Each of the ten heavenly stems is associated with one of the five elements of Chinese astrology, namely: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The elements are rotated every two years while a yin and yang association alternates every year. The elements are thus distinguished: Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire, etc. These produce a combined cycle that repeats every 60 years. For example, the year of the Yang Fire Rat occurred in 1936 and in 1996, 60 years apart.
The Chinese character for “Yin Earth” represents a field or a garden. It is associated with the quality of moderate, peaceful, intellectual, charming and charitable kind of person. People born in a day of “Yin Earth” are often moderate and harmonious and slim.
People born in the Year of the Tiger are straight forward and uninhibited in nature. They will never give up no matter how frustrated they become. Quite often they love competition, cannot pass up a challenge, appear cool and are unpredictable. Some people born in the Year of the Tiger are gentle and full of sympathy. Among some of the well known personages born in the Year of the Tiger are; Queen Elizabeth II, Mary Queen of Scots, Marilyn Monroe, Tom Cruise, Agatha Christie, Diana Riggs, Jodi Foster, Norma Shearer, Charles De Gaulle, Dwight Eisenhower, Tony Bennett, Tennessee Williams, Alec Guiness, Rudolph Nureyev, Marco Polo, Beethoven, Isadora Duncan, Renoir, Karl Marx, Hugh Hefner, Chuck Berry, and Mel Brooks.
Meanwhile, many confuse their Chinese birth-year with their Gregorian birth-year. As the Chinese New Year starts in late January to mid-February, the Chinese year dates from January 1 until that day in the new Gregorian year remain unchanged from the previous Gregorian year. For example, the 1989 year of the snake began on February 6, 1989. The year 1990 is considered by some people to be the year of the horse. However, the 1989 year of the snake officially ended on January 26, 1990. This means that anyone born from January 1 to January 25, 1990, was actually born in the year of the snake rather than the year of the horse. Many online Chinese Sign calculators do not account for the non-alignment of the two calendars, using Gregorian-calendar years rather than official Chinese New Year dates.
Traditionally the color red is worn on and during the Chinese New Year to scare away evil spirits and bad fortunes. Red is a bright and happy festive color, which is sure to help bring the wearer a sunny bright future. It is considered lucky to hear a songbird or a swallow or a red-colored bird. One should not greet a person in their bedroom, and therefore even the sick should be dressed and be seated in the living room. The use of knives and scissors should be avoided because their use may cut off good fortune. No borrowing or lending should be done on the New Year and the use of off-colored language is strictly forbidden. Good luck is encouraged, by opening doors, windows, switching on lights at night to scare away ghosts and spirits, and candy is eaten to insure a “sweet year.” One also will avoid bad luck by not buying shoes, pants or having a haircut. It is said that on the first day of the New Year one should not sweep the floors or buy any books!
According to custom, the entire house should be cleaned before New Year’s Day. On the eve of the New Year’s all cleaning equipment should be stored away. Shooting off firecrackers on New Year’s Eve is the Chinese way of sending out the old year and bringing on the new. One should open all their doors in windows to allow the old year to escape forever. If one cries on New Year, they could be cursed to cry throughout the year.