Well, I refer annually to the wonderful history lesson from our friend, John Copeland, Producer, Writer, Director, California Olive Farmer, and cultivator of fine Olive Oil. Enjoy his fascinating and summative history lesson!…
“Happy New Year, again! Yes, we celebrated the arrival of 2017 on January 1st, but this Friday, January 27th, is once again New Year’s Eve and Saturday, January 28th is New Years, actually, Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year.
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. Given all the talk from the the administration in Washington D.C., about America’s relationship with China, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the upcoming Lunar New Year and what it means to the Asian nations who will begin celebrations this weekend.
Roughly, one sixth of the people on our planet will be celebrating New Years over the next 15 days, culminating with the Lantern Festival. In cities, towns and villages across China, one-fifth of the world’s population will be welcoming the Year of the Rooster. Only, this New Years will not be ringing in 2017, according to the Chinese calendar it is the year 4714.
The Lunar New Year is a time of family reunions. Family members gather at each other’s homes for visits and shared meals, most significantly a feast on New Year’s Eve. In China, during the 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.
The Lunar New Year is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar, and it falls on the second new moon after winter solstice, which always falls somewhere between the 21st of January and 19th of February, so unlike our January 1st that begins our year, the date of the Lunar New Year changes from year to year.
The Chinese calendar is lunisolar. It is based on exact astronomical observations of the sun’s longitude and the moon’s phases. It attempts to have its years coincide with the tropical year and shares some similarities with the Jewish calendar. In both calendars, an ordinary year has 12 months and a leap year has 13 months; and an ordinary year has 353-355 days while a leap year has 383-385 days.
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.
According to legend, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with a ugly bloodthirsty monster named Nian (which roughly translates as “Year”) would emerge on the last night of each year to destroy villages and eat people. Finally, a wise elder advised villagers that they could scare the monster away with loud noises. On the next New Year’s Eve, the people hung lanterns and posted Dui Lian on the front door of their homes. (The Dui Lian are one of the most important and revered Chinese New Year symbols and traditions. The characters written on them are poetic and traditional Chinese sayings representing the wishes and hopes that Chinese people have for the new year.) They also set off a lot of fireworks and the monster, afraid of the noises and lights, ran away. On the first day of the new year, the villagers celebrated, greeting each other with the words Guo Nian, which means “we survived the Nian.” The tradition has continued to this day, with Guo Nian now meaning “celebrate the new year.”The Chinese calendar’s origins can be traced as far back as the 14th century BCE giving it the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2697 BCE. It is believed that the Emperor Huangdi (Huang Ti or Huang Di) introduced the calendar and that his minister Ta Nao prepared the first calendar, called the Chia-tzu or Kan-chih system, which translates as “the system of cyclical characters”.The Chinese calendar does not count years in an infinite sequence. It is instead based upon a 60 year cycle. Within the 60 year cycle, each year is assigned a name consisting of a celestial component:Jia (associated with growing wood)
Each of the two components is used sequentially. This pattern of naming years within a 60-year cycle dates back to about 2000 years. Due to its scientific and mathematical nature, the Chinese calendar allows us to easily and precisely calculate backward or forward for thousands of years.
The Chinese calendar features 12 months. However, an extra month is inserted in the calendar when a leap year occurs. Leap years in the Chinese calendar have 13 months, unlike leap years in our Gregorian calendar in which we simply add and extra day at the end of February. A leap month is added to the Chinese calendar, usually about every three years. The name of the leap month is the same as the previous lunar month. A leap year in the Chinese calendar does not necessarily coincide with a leap year on the Gregorian calendar.
To calculate the leap year, the Chinese count the number of new moons between the 11th month in one year, which is December in our calendar and the time of the winter solstice and the 11th month in the following year. A leap month must be inserted if there are 13 new moons occur within this time period.
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.” 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. The Red Fire Rooster 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. According to these “experts,” the Year of the Fire Rooster is going to bring fresh challenges requiring quick wit and practical solutions! The Year of the Rooster will be a powerful one, with no middle of the road when it comes to moving forward.
The Rooster, the tenth Chinese zodiac sign, will give the year some of the characteristics of the bird it symbolizes: ambition, pride, the desire to be admired, punctuality, courage, passion and a well-developed disposition for love and seduction. At the same time, during the year an increase in enthusiasm will be felt. The relationships between people will be under the sign of great honesty. We will all prove to have more passion in life, especially regarding work, where we will not hesitate to roll up our sleeves in order to reach our objectives. “Always higher, always going on” is the motto of the Rooster and it will inspire all of us. Braver than usually, we will not be defeated by difficulties and adversities. However, we will have to maintain our spirit’s flexibility, because under the influence of this king of the yard, which, according to Chinese people, is very conservative, we risk being inflexible and refuse changing ideas or life strategies, even though they might be inadequate for the future. Regarding love, times will be intense and full of passion. We will feel the desire to overwhelm our loved ones and to be overwhelmed by them. Those with a free heart will search for happiness with more partners, but those that are already in love will choose loyalty, proving great tenderness.
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 Year of the Rooster is about to arrive. So welcome it and have a very prosperous New Year ahead.
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