Wednesday, February 6, 2013

春节快乐 // Happy Spring Festival

春节快乐 // Happy Spring Festival

It is that time of the year, Spring Festival and Chinese New Year!  Although Chinese New Year is becoming more commonly known as the Lunar New Year since it is based on the Lunar calendar, as more countries ascribe to the Lunar calendar than just China, including Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines and others.
The Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival.  The celebrations traditionally run from Chinese New Year’s Day itself (the 1st day of the 1st month of the Chinese (Lunar) calendar) to the Latern Festival on the 15th day of the 1st month.
There are a couple of different ways to wish a Chinese friend or co-worker a Happy Spring Festival (or Chinese New Year).  In Simplified Chinese (Mandarin) you may wish someone: 春节快乐, which is pronounced “chūnjié kuàilè” and means Happy Chinese New Year (literally, it means Happy Spring Festival).  Or, you could wish someone: 新年快乐, which is pronounced “xīnnián kuàilè” and means Happy New Year.  Some people may be familiar with the saying Gong Hei Fa Choi – which is a Cantonese expression (广东话, Guǎngdōng huà) wishing people prosperity and such*.

How is it Celebrated

Traditionally there are Lion dances, fireworks, family gathering, family meal, visiting friends and relatives (拜年, bàinián), giving red envelopes, decorating with duilian (對聯, duìlián).  There are also other cultural activities such as sweeping out the last year from the house, scaring away the evil spirits, getting a fresh haircut, etc.

What is the Zodiac Sign for the New Year

This year, is the year of the snake (, shé).  There are 12 animals in the zodiac system.  The snake is the 6th animal, coming after Dragon (, Lóng) but before the Horse (, Mǎ).
Traditionally it is believed that the Zodiac sign a person is born under influences their characteristics.  A person born in the years of the Snake (1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013) are thought to be intuitive, introspective, refined and collected of the Animal Signs. They are attractive people who take cries with ease and do not become flustered easily. They are graceful people, exciting and dark at the same time.  Contemplative and private, the Snake is not outwardly emotional. He can appear cunning and reticent and works very modestly in the business environment. The Snake will plot and scheme to make certain things turn out exactly as they want them to. They are not great communicators and can become quite possessive when they set their minds on achieving the interest of a partner.
Besides the animal sign, there are Elements which temper the characteristics of the Snake.  The 5 Elements are Metal (, Jīn), Water (, shuǐ), Wood (, mù), Fire (, huǒ) and Earth (, tǔ).  These rotate in a 5 year cycle on top of the 12 year zodiac cycle.  2013 is the year of the Water Snake.  People who are Water Snakes are then considered influential and insightful. They manage others well and tend to be good for organizations to utilize as staff. They are quite motivated and intellectual, very determined and resolute about success. They will have what they desire, despite the conclusion or outcome they generate because it is worth it to them to not only be recognized for their efforts, but to be rewarded as well. They are affectionate with their families and friends but do not show this side of their personality to colleagues or business partners.

The Great Race

Another folk story tells that Cat and Rat were the worst swimmers in the animal kingdom. Although they were poor swimmers, they were both quite intelligent. To get to the meeting called by the Jade Emperor, they had to cross a river to reach the meeting place. The Jade Emperor had also decreed that the years on the calendar would be named for each animal in the order they arrived to the meeting. Cat and Rat decided that the best and fastest way to cross the river was to hop on the back of Ox. Ox, being naïve and good-natured, agreed to carry them both across. Midway across the river, Rat pushed Cat into the water. Then as Ox neared the other side of the river, Rat jumped ahead and reached the shore first. So he claimed first place in the competition and the zodiac.
Following closely behind was strong Ox who was named the 2nd animal in the zodiac. After Ox, came Tiger, panting, while explaining to the Jade Emperor how difficult it was to cross the river with the heavy currents pushing it downstream all the time. But with its powerful strength, Tiger made to shore and was named the 3rd animal in the cycle.
Suddenly, from a distance came a thumping sound, and the Rabbit arrived. It explained how it crossed the river: by jumping from one stone to another in a nimble fashion. Halfway through, it almost lost the race, but the Rabbit was lucky enough to grab hold of a floating log that later washed him to shore. For that, it became the 4th animal in the Zodiac cycle. In 5th place was the Flying Dragon. Of course, the Jade Emperor was deeply curious as to why a swift flying creature such as the Dragon should fail to reach first place. The mighty Dragon explained that he had to stop and make rain to help all the people and creatures of the earth, and therefore he was held back. Then, on his way to the finish, he saw a little helpless Rabbit clinging onto a log so he did a good deed and gave a puff of breath to the poor creature so that it could land on the shore. The Jade Emperor was very pleased with the actions of the Dragon, and he was added into the zodiac cycle. As soon as he had done so, a galloping sound was heard, and the Horse appeared. Hidden on the Horse's hoof was the Snake, whose sudden appearance gave the Horse a fright, thus making it fall back and giving the Snake the 6th spot, while the Horse placed 7th.
Not long after that, a little distance away, the Goat, Monkey, and Rooster came to the shore. These three creatures helped each other to get to where they are. The Rooster spotted a raft, and took the other two animals with it. Together, the Goat and the Monkey cleared the weeds, tugged and pulled and finally got the raft to the shore. Because of their combined efforts, the Emperor was very pleased and promptly named the Goat as the 8th creature, the Monkey as the 9th, and the Rooster the 10th.
The 11th animal was the Dog. Although he was supposed to be the best swimmer, he could not resist the temptation to play a little longer in the river. Though his explanation for being late was because he needed a good bath after a long spell. For that, he almost didn't make it to the finish line. Just as the Jade Emperor was about to call it a day, an oink and squeal was heard from a little Pig. The Pig got hungry during the race, promptly stopped for a feast and then fell asleep. After the nap, the Pig continued the race and was named the 12th animal of the zodiac cycle. The Cat finished in 13th place and did not make it in the zodiac. It is said that that is the reason why Cats always chase Rats; to get back at them for what they have done.

References / More Fun Reading:

* Apologies

I could be dead wrong in all the information contained above… that’s what you get when a 大鼻子tries to explain things.  J  对不起。

No comments:

Post a Comment