Friday, February 16, 2018
Chinese New Year: The Year of the Dog
The Chinese calendar is based on the movement of the moon around the sun. There are twelve months in the Chinese year but only 354 days in the year. Whilst the Chinese New Year's Day always falls on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar, the dates vary each year on the Gregorian calendar, between January 21th and February 20th. Only the first three days of Chinese New Year are statutory holiday, but many people take 7 consecutive days off. This year is the Year of the Dog and for people born in a year of the dog (1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018). The Dog is the eleventh of all zodiac animals.
As an agricultural culture, the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival holiday traditionally was set to start at the beginning of the growing season, which nowadays corresponds to the beginning of a new business year. The hope is always the new zodiac year will bring prosperity and success so it is important to get a good start to the year. During the Chinese New Year thousands flock to the temple, to pray for good fortune in the coming year. The customs is similar to Hogmonay, in that debts are cleared, the house is cleaned and family and friends meet for a feast. Family’s homes and surrounds are cleaned prior to the festival in order to rid the home of any bad fortune from the previous year. Old decorations are removed and replaced with new ones for the Spring Festival. Having a clean home also makes way for good luck in the New Year. Domestic cleaning is never undertaken during the festival in case it sweeps away good fortune.
Chinese New Year is a time for family and get together. The New Year’s Eve dinner is a major event with certain foods are prominent because of their symbolic meanings, based on their names or appearances. Fish is a must, as the Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for surplus. Eating fish is thought to bring a surplus of money and good luck in the coming year. Other favourites include dumplings, spring rolls, glutinous rice cakes, and sweet rice balls.
Pyrotechnics are a tradition at Chinese New Year. The significance of the fire crackers is to "sound out" the old year and "sound in" the new year. Displays start with one string of small firecrackers, followed by three big firecrackers. The louder and more colourful (red) the three firecrackers are the better and luckier it’ is for the coming year. Evil spirits have an aversion to anything red and loud noises.
During the Spring Festival, gifts are exchanged with the most common hóng bāo or red envelopes (yāsuì qián),containing an even number of new bank notes as odd numbers are related to cash given during funerals. Red symbolizes good luck (lee see). It was widely believed with each one hundred dollars received in these holy packets your life span is increased twofold. Traditionally these are given to children, young unmarried adults and (retired) seniors but sometimes employers will reward their workers with red envelopes. In the cyber age young people exchange cyber money via red envelope apps for fun.
The magical effects of the hóng bāo can be nullified by the Yu Quan Demon, a malicious spirit that manifests itself in the teeth of the dead. To avoid this, the custom is to burn three sticks of incense every night five minutes before sleeping for three days before and after the Chinese New Year.
The practice of giving Mandarin oranges (always in pairs) is also a symbol of good luck. Giving gifts of clocks, watches or other time pieces should be avoided. To the superstitious these symbolise time running out, as well as relationships coming to an end. The Chinese word for shoes sounds similar to evil, and since people step on shoes, they should be avoided as gifts.
Families follow a set of beliefs and superstitions to start the year on the right note and there are many superstitions observed during the Spring Festival season. These taboos usually apply up to a month before the festival and continue to the end of the festival (day 15, the Lantern Festival).
Washing Hair in the first three days is considered bad luck for fear of washing away good luck.
Crying children is bad karma and so the young are placated fastidiously. Children are also spared from all punishments even if they are misbehaving.
It is normal is clear all debts before the beginning on the new year and asking for a loan, lending or begging during the festival is not a done practice, as it is believed it will only bring misfortune.
Talking about anything related to death is strictly forbidden as is wearing black clothing.
Using knives or scissors should be avoided as they may cut off fortune.
People born in the Year of Dog, have many excellent characteristics, such as being honest, trustworthy, loyal and very good friends. They are popular in social circles and like helping their friends find and fix their bad habits. Often whilst they may be worried and anxious inside, Dogs are determined to see things through and no matter how they feel inside, the job must be done. Men are straightforward and genuine but also opinionated, and always ready to correct others and defend their stance. They care deeply for their family and any stubbornness fades in the face of their loved ones. They work to understand and compromise, resulting in a harmonious family life. Women born in the Dog year are very cautious. They are indifferent towards people they don’t like, and don’t trust easily. But once they do, it’s permanent. They are intensely protective of their friends and family. They are genial and independent. They love outdoor activities and being in nature. However, they are also hard workers and don’t give up until they succeed. Security and a stable income are her requirements for a career.
2018 is a most unlucky year with trouble and danger lurking at every corner. There will be unforeseeable problems in work and the Dog’s financial situation is at risk. Dogs will also find it difficult to communicate with loved ones too. In order to not make things worse, Dogs should keep a low profile. Thinking before they speak and act is the key. Overall, this is a year that Dogs must get through. The directions of fortune and wealth for Dogs this year are the southeast, southwest and north. It would be the best to put the bed, worktable and sofa in these positions of the room. To avoid bad luck, do not put important furniture in the south and east. The lucky colors in 2018 are yellow, red and orange. Decorating the home or wearing these colors will help greatly with changing luck for the better. Colors to avoid are green and gray. Lucky numbers that will open the road to wealth are 4 and 6. It’s the Chinese tradition to wear red underwear every day during their zodiac year. Dogs can try this to ward off the bad luck. Once past this year, Dogs can continue on their steady and quiet road to happiness.
In China, it is still popular to name dogs Wàng Cái (旺财). It means “prosperous wealth” and comes from dogs’ barking sounds (旺旺—wàng wàng).
Zao Jun is the Kitchen God (or Stove God) and he is a popular domestic deity. Many household keet paper effigy in his honour and he has a very important role to play. At the Spring Festival. The common belief is he returned to Heaven ach year at this time to report on the activities of every household over the past year to the Jade Emperor The Jade Emperor (Yu Huang). who will in turn either reward or punish a family based on Zao Jun's yearly report. To prevent Zao Jun from giving too much information about the family sticky sweet cakes (Chinese New Year's cake) are left as offering in the hope his mouth will be too sticky to tell all on the family. The lips of Zao Jun's paper effigy are often smeared with honey to sweeten his words to Yu Huang (Jade Emperor), or to keep his lips stuck together. After this, the effigy will be burnt and replaced by a new one on New Year's Day. If the household has a statue or a nameplate of Zao Jun it will be taken down and cleaned on this day for the new year.