Lunar New Year 2019

pig

The Lunar New Year begins on (using our Western Gregorian calendar) Tuesday, February 5, 2019. For most Westerners, this is known as the Chinese New Year and this year is the Year of the Pig. The date changes from year to year because it’s based on a lunar calendar, but it usually falls somewhere between mid-January and mid-to-late February.

But the Lunar New Year is also celebrated by other countries in East Asia, such as the celebration of Tet (in Vietnam) and Seollal (in South Korea).

In China, this is a time when many people return to their hometown to visit family. But in the United States, there are also festivities that many people – Asian and not – are aware of and may participate in, such as special foods and fireworks. Families will often give “lucky money” to young people, making offerings to ancestors and decorating and dressing in red color of the holiday.

The Pig is the last, the twelfth, of all zodiac animals. One myth is that the Jade Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party, and Pig was late because he overslept. Another myth story says that a wolf destroyed his house and he had to rebuild his home before he could go to the party and so had to take twelfth place. So, the last Year of the Pig was 2007.

The Pig is associated with the Earthly Branch (地支—dì zhī) hài (亥), and the hours 9–11 pm. In terms of yin and yang (阴阳—yīn yáng), the Pig is yin. In Chinese culture, pigs are the symbol of wealth, and their chubby faces and big ears are signs of fortune as well.

People born in the Year of the Pig are said to have similar personalities and characteristics:

Pigs might not stand out in a crowd. But they are very realistic. Others may be all talk and no action. Pigs are the opposite.

Though not wasteful spenders, they will let themselves enjoy life. They love entertainment and will occasionally treat themselves. They are a bit materialistic, but this is motivation for them to work hard. Being able to hold solid objects in their hands gives them security.

They are energetic and are always enthusiastic, even for boring jobs. If given the chance, they will take positions of power and status. They believe that only those people have the right to speak, and that’s what they want.

There are cities in America that host large Lunar New Year celebrations. The only one that I have ever attended is in New York City. The city has one of the largest populations of ethnic Chinese people outside of Asia. If you visit the main “Chinatown” section of Manhattan tomorrow it will be a crowded party (despite cold weather) with parades and restaurants crowded with diners of all backgrounds ordering special holiday dishes. Actually, there are about ten “Chinatowns” in the New York City metro area. The Chinatown in Flushing, Queens has its own parade, and there are Lunar New Year celebrations in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

MORE  ChineseNewYear.net

 

Happy New Year. Again.

Today is January 14, 2019, according to the Gregorian calendar that you are likely to use, but in the Julian calendar this is the start of a new year.

The Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. The Gregorian January 14, 2019 is January 1 in the Julian calendar. So, today is the Julian New Year, also known as the Old New Year or the Orthodox New Year. The Christian Eastern Orthodox Church still uses the Julian calendar.

The Julian calendar was used worldwide for over 16 centuries. Not a bad run.

Another place that you will still see the Julian calendar used is with the dates of astronomical events that occurred before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582.

calendar1582

The date for the introduction of the Julian calendar was October 15, 1582 but, as you might guess, introducing a new calendar to the world could not really happen overnight. England kept the Julian calendar for another two centuries.

It was Pope Gregory who decreed that October 4, 1582 on the Julian calendar would be followed by October 15, 1582. That means that in 1582, there was no October 5 through 14. Strange days.

Marking the Longest Lunar Month of This Century

You might know that before calendars and clocks,  days and nights were marked by the rising and setting of the Sun and”months” were marked by the Moon phases. You could measure the time between Full Moons, or the time between New Moons. A lunar month (more scientific names are a lunation or synodic month) is the period of time between successive New Moons.

Lunar months vary slightly in length but we can be quite precise about them now. The New Moon today starts the longest lunar month of the 21st century. (That’s 2001 to 2100.)

The mean length of the lunar month lasts 29.53059 days. But the lunar month starting December 18, 2017 and ending January 17, 2018 will be more than 7 hours longer than the mean, having a duration of 29 days 19 hours 47 minutes.

This won’t change your life in any noticeable way, and you’ll probably still consider the month to be from December 1 to the 31st, but it is one of those celestial once-in-a-lifetime things.

new moon
A New Moon photo should be just black. By the modern definition, a New Moon occurs when the Moon and Sun are at the same geocentric ecliptic longitude and the part of the Moon facing us is completely in shadow. Pictured here is the traditional New Moon, actually the earliest visible waxing crescent, which signals the start of a new month in many lunar and lunisolar calendars.

Although the Gregorian calendar, a solar calendar, is in common and legal use in most countries, traditional lunar and lunisolar calendars continue to be used throughout the Old World to determine religious festivals and national holidays. Such holidays include Ramadan (Islamic calendar); the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Mongolian New Year (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Mongolian calendars); the Nepali New Year (Nepali calendar); the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chuseok (Chinese and Korean calendars); Loi Krathong (Thai calendar); Sunuwar calendar; Diwali (Hindu calendars) and Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew calendar).

Bye Bye Moon

“Bye Bye Moon” is not meant to be a sequel to Goodnight MoonDid you know that the moon’s distance from Earth varies each month? I didn’t know that until this week, even though I know a lot about our Moon and I write about it at least once a month here.

Our Moon has a rather eccentric orbit and it is moving away from us at about one and a half inches per year. Scientists attribute this to tidal friction with the Earth’s oceans which also slows down how fast the Earth rotates, This lengthens our day by about 1 second every 40000 years.

Okay, it is not something we really will notice or need to worry about, but because scientists can do simulations, they can figure out that four and a half billion years ago when the moon was being formed,  it was only about 15,000 miles from Earth. Now, it is about 238, 831 miles from Earth.

Back then, an Earth day might have been only 5 or 6 hours long and there would be 1400 days in one year. More recently, at least relatively, around 900 million years ago there would be 480 days of about 18 hours each in one Earth year. That would certainly give us a very different lifestyle.

And projecting into the future, we would expect longer days but fewer of them in a year.

Even though we can’t observe these changes within a lifetime, it awesome and full of wonder to me that these changes are happening.

Quarter Days and the Wheel of the Year

wheel

The recent summer solstice reminds me that many of our current rituals and holidays have some basis in the calendars of the ancient Celts and other cultures. The turning of the “Wheel of the Year” was a concept used in varying ways by several cultures.

Historians don’t all agree about whether the ancient Celts observed the solstices and equinoxes. They may have divided the year into four major sections: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh. Today those days are referred to as Quarter Days.

Some historians believe the ancient Celts observed eight divisions of the year – the four major sections, which are the equinoxes and solstices each beginning with a quarter day, and then a further halving into four cross-quarter days.

It is important to remember that the seasons as we know them today are not ancient division, though they are certainly based on some of the same celestial observations. The solstices and equinoxes nicely divided an agrarian lifestyle year.

The adoption of the 12-month Roman calendar for civil and then religious purposes began to align closely with the liturgical year of the Christian church.

The eight divisions are: Midwinter (Yule), Imbolc, Vernal Equinox (Ostara), Beltane, Midsummer (Litha), Lammas/Lughnasadh, Autumnal equinox (Mabon) and Samhain.

The Cross-Quarter Days marked the midpoint between a solstice and equinox, and for the ancient Celts, these marked the beginning of each season. As far as “seasons,” there were only two divisions: winter marked with Samhain which was the start of the dark half of the year, and summer/Beltane to begin the light half of the year.

The Wheel of the Year is the annual cycle of seasonal festivals, still observed by many modern Pagans. It consists of either four or eight festivals depending on whether they observe the solstices and equinoxes, or include the four midpoint cross quarter days.

A sun cross is a design found in the symbolism of prehistoric cultures, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods of European prehistory. Its importance in prehistoric religion has made its interpretation as a solar symbol.

Popular legend in Ireland says that the Celtic Christian cross was introduced by Saint Patrick or possibly Saint Declan, though there are no examples from this early period. The legend is that St. Patrick combined the symbol of Christianity with the sun cross to bring the pagan followers a connection to the Christian cross. The cross also divided the solar year into quarters.

Is It Midsummer Already?

Midsummer's Eve
Midsummer’s Eve Bonfire on Skagen’s Beach by P.S. Krøyer

Is it midsummer already? Why, it seems like we just started summer this past week.  Yes, we did just pass the summer solstice. But Midsummer, also known as St John’s Day and Litha, is a day or the period of time centered upon the summer solstice. In most Northern European celebrations, the event takes place on a day between June 19 and June 25 and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary between different cultures.

Today is St. John’s Day, so we can celebrate Midsummer today too. The Christian Church designated June 24 as the feast day of the early Christian martyr St John the Baptist, and the observance of St John’s Day begins the evening before, known as St John’s Eve.

European midsummer celebrations are pre-Christian in origin. In the Southern Hemisphere (mostly in Brazil, Argentina and Australia), this imported European celebration would be more appropriately called “Midwinter.”

Midsummer is also sometimes referred to by some Neopagans as Litha, the fire festival.  Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southward again. Some believed that witches were also on their way to meetings with other powerful beings.