Happy New Year, again!
In 2015, we celebrated New Years on January 1st and today, Thursday, February 19th, it is 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 2014, according to the Chinese calendar it is the year 4713.
About one sixth of the people on our planet will celebrate New Years tomorrow. In cities, towns and villages across China, one-fifth of the world’s population is welcoming the Year of the Goat. It is the biggest festival of the year in China, and many other Asian nations. Taiwan, Bhutan, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Japan all celebrate the Lunar New Year.
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, meaning it 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.
The short explanation is that the Lunar New Year falls on the second New Moon after the winter solstice. It is based strictly on astronomical observations, and has nothing to do with the Pope, emperors, animals or myths. Due to its scientific and mathematical nature, the Chinese calendar allows us to easily and precisely calculate backward or forward for thousands of years.
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.” 2015 is the Year of the Goat. The Wood Goat to be exact.
Some of you may have heard or read that this is the Year of the Sheep or Ram, too. But actually, the Chinese people are also not quite sure about that. In Chinese the word 羊 (yáng) is a generic term, and can refer to a sheep (绵羊), goat (山羊), ram/buck (公羊 male sheep or goat), 羚羊 or even antelope.
However, most Chinese people and folklorists believe that the Chinese zodiac animal is the Goat, not the Sheep, and they have some evidence to support this idea.
The Chinese zodiac was created the Han, the largest ethnic group of China, and goats were widely raised by the Han people, so the zodiac animal is more likely to refer to a goat.
On Chinese zodiac, is the image of a Goat that appears on Chinese zodiac stamps, New Year paper cuttings, and New Year paintings, not a sheep.
The Goat was one of the 12 bronze statues of the Chinese zodiac at the Old Summer Palace. Although its head was lost, its present reproduction according to historical records is the image of a goat.
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.
In Chinese astrology, the Goat is regarded as an auspicious animal that delivers a year of promise and prosperity. Those born on the year of the goat are said to possess peaceful traits. Goats are kind, helpful, and trusting. The Ram is among the animals that people like most. It is gentle and calm, and so are this year’s predictions for the Chinese horoscope.
According to Chinese traditional astrology, 2015, the year of the Green Wooden Goat is allegorically represented as the period of a passing summer, a period of prosperity and wellbeing.
The Lunar New Year is a time of family reunion. Family members gather at each other’s homes for visits and shared meals, most significantly a feast on New Year’s Eve. At Chinese New Year celebrations people wear red clothes, decorate with poems on red paper, and give children “lucky money” in red envelopes. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. The fireworks, which are being forgone in most of China this year because of air pollution are rooted in a similar ancient custom. In ancient times, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits.
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.
The Year of the Goat has arrived. So welcome the Goat and have a very prosperous New Year ahead.
Happy New Year.
Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) Gong Hey Fat Choy (Cantonese)
2390 N. Refugio Rd.
Santa Ynez, CA 93460
Dr. Eric P. Dahlstrom, D.C., L.Ac.
Santa Monica Healing Arts
Providing Chiropractic Care and Acupuncture in Santa Monica since 1999 (http://santamonicahealingarts.com).
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