Happy New Year, again! In 2016, we celebrated New Years on January 1st and this past Sunday, February 8th, it was New Years once again – Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year. It is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. Only, in much of Asia it is not 2016, according to the Chinese calendar it is the year 4715.
The Lunar New Year is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar, and it falls on the second new moon after winter solstice – somewhere between 21 January and 19 February, so unlike January 1st, the date of the Lunar New Year changes from year to year.
Although China has used the Gregorian calendar since 1912, the lunisolar calendar continues to be used to mark traditional holidays such as the New Year and the fall moon festival. It’s also used astrologically to select favorable dates for weddings and other special events.
The Lunar New Year has the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2697 BCE, when the Chinese Emperor Huang Ti introduced the first cycle of the zodiac. The Chinese calendar is based on a complex lunisolar calendar system that uses both lunar and solar cycles to mark time. And there are several different symbolic cycles within the calendar, used in Chinese astrology, that make it an intricate and complex measurement of time.
This system is extremely practical. A child does not have to learn a new answer to the question, “How old are you?” in each new year. Old people often lose track of their age, because they are rarely asked about their present age. Every one just has to remember that he or she was born in the “Year of the Dog” or whatever.
The Chinese Lunar Calendar names each of the twelve years after an animal. Legend has it that Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he died. Only twelve came to bid him farewell and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality, saying: “This is the animal that hides in your heart.” 2016 is the Year of the Monkey. The Red Fire Monkey to be exact.
Like any fresh start of a year, questions abound about wealth, health and matters of the heart.
For many in China, Feng Shui masters with their astrological readings and predictions are merely a fun activity to pass the time. But for the superstitious, horoscope experts provide important guidance for the coming year.
The Year of the Monkey runs from February 8th, 2016 until January 27th, 2017, and this year, people who are born under the sign of the rabbit, snake, ox, rooster and rat will have the best luck out of all of the animal signs. More women will be in power this year, but all signs must be vigilant about health issues and potential accidents.
And to finish up, how did the Chinese Zodiac become named after animals? Well, tradition says that the Jade Emperor, or Emperor of Heaven summoned all the animals of the Earth, and he gave a year to each of the first 12 animals to arrive.
When the cat heard the news, he told rat about it and the two animals decided to go together the next day. However, the next morning the rat did not wake up the cat. Therefore, the cat could not make it to the gathering on time and did not get a year. This is why there is no year of the cat and is the reason why cats hunt rats.
Still, the rat made it first to the assembly and received the first year. The Year of the Rat is the start of the Chinese Zodiac Cycle – which repeats every 12 years. The rat used a lot of trickery to arrive first. He tricked the ox to let him ride on its head. The ox agreed and they went together. Just when they were about to reach to the assembly the clever rat jumped off the ox’s head and passed through the entrance gate first. The Ox was second followed by the Tiger and the Rabbit.
The Dragon, even though it was the largest, fastest and most powerful animal of creation, arrived fifth because it stopped along the way to make rain for the farmers and to help the Rabbit cross the river that all animals had to cross to arrive at the Emperor’s palace.
The Dragon was follow by the Snake, the Horse, the Sheep, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog and the Pig.
But only twelve animals came to offer Buddha farewell and as a token of appreciation he named a year after each of the twelve animals in the order they arrived. In this way each year got linked with an animal. People born in that year are believed to share different traits.
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