I Am Celebrating Everything

I don’t know what to celebrate today and tomorrow.

The lunar calendar is a calendar based upon the monthly cycles of the Moon’s phases (synodic months), rather than the solar calendars that most Westerners are familiar with and use daily. The Gregorian calendar, which is a solar calendar and is the most common calendar system, originally evolved out of a lunar calendar system.

year of tigerToday, that lunar calendar makes this the New Year that is most known as the “Chinese New Year.” This year is the Year of the Tiger. I made the mistake last year of ordering Chinese takeout on this day. Wow, was that a long, long wait for delivery!

But the Lunar New Year is celebrated by all those who follow the lunisolar calendar, including countries such as China, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Mongolia and Indonesia, as well as diaspora communities all over the world. Similarly, Tibet, Thailand, India and other South and Southeast Asian cultures celebrate the new year based on local calendars.

Imbolc and BrigidBut I could celebrate the ancient Imbolc, a word  that comes from the Old Irish imbolg, which means “in the belly.” That needs some explanation.

It probably comes from early February being the time when ewes became pregnant and will produce spring lambs.

candles Christians took this pagan holiday and repurposed it as tomorrow’s Candlemas Day (Candelora in Italy). Imbolc became associated with Saint Brigid who was thought to bring the healing power of the Sun back to the world.

But Candlemas is meant to mark the presentation of Jesus at the temple 40 days after his birth. Any church ceremony will include bringing candles (the return of light) and Brigid’s crosses to church to be blessed.

Of course, tomorrow Groundhog Day takes most of the attention in America. What can I say about that silly holiday that has some origins in nature that I haven’t already written about on this site?


A New Lunar Year Begins

2021 ox
2021 Ox year brush painting

Today starts a new lunar year, popularly known as Chinese New Year. 2021 is a year of the Ox which will run until  January 31st, 2022. Each of the twelve Chinese zodiac sign animals has variations and this is a Metal Ox year. The most recent zodiac years of the Ox sign were in 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, and 2009. Each animal reappears every 12 years in this order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

A lunar calendar is a calendar based upon the monthly cycles of the Moon’s phases (synodic months), rather than solar calendars. The most commonly used calendar is the Gregorian calendar which is a solar calendar system but it originally evolved out of a lunar calendar system.

I have written about the lunar new year here before, so this year I will focus on how your personal horoscope is affected by your birth year.

I was born in the year of the Snake, specifically a water snake. Our animal prejudices show up when people find out they are a snake or pig and would rather be a tiger or dragon. Did Harry Potter want to be put in the house of Slytherin (snake) or Griffindor (griffins are lions with eagle wings and claws)? Snakes are not good in those books, continuing a longheld prejudice against them that goes back even before the Garden of Eden serpent.

Here are some things about people born in a snake year.

snake year via chinahighlights.com

People born in a year of the Snake are called “Snakes” in China. If you were born in 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, or 2013, then you’re a Snake.

Despite the snake’s bad reputation, in Chinese culture the Snake is the most enigmatic animal among the 12 zodiac animals. People born in a year of the Snake are supposed to be the most intuitive.

What often makes astrology and horoscopes popular is that we like to hear good things about ourselves. Intuitive? Yeah, that’s me.

And there’s more – snakes tend to act according to their own judgments while remaining private and reticent. They are determined to accomplish their goals and hate to fail. They represent the symbol of wisdom. They are intelligent and wise. They are good at communication but say little. Snakes are usually regarded as great thinkers.

Wow, this Chinese astrology has me down exactly!

Even the less than perfect aspects of snakes fits me pretty well. We are materialistic and love keeping up with our peers. We love to possess the best of everything but have no patience for shopping. We also prefer to work alone. We are easily stressed and when we seem unusually stressed, it is best to allow us our own space and time to return to normal.

Tonight at dinner, some longevity noodles are appropriate, stir-fried and not cut or broken in the cooking. And if we can eat them without biting through the strands, it’s considered even more auspicious for the new year.

Spring Couplets for the Lunar New Year

year of the ratTomorrow is Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year and as the Spring Festival. 2020 is the year of the Rat.

The Rat is the first of all zodiac animals. One version of the Rat’s story is that the Jade Emperor said the order of the zodiac would be decided by the order in which animals arrived to his party. The Rat got a ride on the Ox and then at the last moment jumped off and landed in front of Ox.

Most Westerners don’t think very highly of rats, but in Chinese culture rats were seen as a sign of wealth and surplus, and because of their rapid reproduction rate, married couples prayed to them for children. In terms of yin and yang, the Rat is yang and represents the beginning of a new day.

A lunar calendar is a calendar based upon the monthly cycles of the Moon’s phases (synodic months), rather than solar calendars. The most commonly used calendar is the Gregorian calendar which is a solar calendar system but it orginally evolved out of a lunar calendar system.

This image from Flickr shows a house with the couplet:
Spirited horse amidst colorful songs pushes away the old year
Fat sheep between joyful dances welcome a new spring season
That couplet cleverly uses the order of the animal zodiac because the Year of the Sheep follows the Year of the Horse.

Recently, I discovered that one Chinese New Year tradition involves chūn lián couplets. These “Spring Couplets” are a pair of antithetical lines. These two sentences are put on the sides of a home’s door and a horizontal scroll bearing an inscription with an auspicious phrase is put above the home’s main door or gate. The first line is put on the right side of the door and the second is on the left.

On the eve of the Spring Festival, a household will usually paste the spring couplet written on red paper on the door frame.

I read that the earliest couplet was written by Meng Xu (919–965), king of Houshu State during the Five Dynasties. That one reads:

The New Year enjoys many celebrations;
happy holiday sounds invoke lasting spring blessings.

That first one doesn’t seem very “antithetical.”  A newer one reads:

Hǎi kuò píng yú yuè;
tiān gāo rèn niǎo fēi.

A wide sea lets fish jump;
a high sky lets birds fly.

At one time families wrote their own spring couplet with a brush or carved them into woodblocks, but now you can buy printed spring couplets in Asian markets – and on Amazon!

Longevity Noodles and the Lunar New Year


The Chinese zodiac moves in a 12-year cycle, and those born in 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018 are born in Years of the Dog. Today starts another Year of the Dog.

The twelve animals get their turn every dozen years, but there are variations. For example, 2018 will be the first Year of the Earth Dog since 1958.

Unlike the Western new Year, the Chinese New Year takes place on a different date each year because it is based on the lunar calendar, but it normally falls between January 21 and February 20.

Around the globe, celebrations are an explosion of light and sound, But  long noodles are also eaten for the new year. “Longevity noodles” (which are also eaten at birthday celebrations) are what I am eating tonight. These long noodles will be stir fried and never cut or broken in the cooking. If we can eat them without biting through the strands, it’s considered even more auspicious for the new year.

longevity noodles


Year of the Rooster


The Lunar New Year is here. A time to gather with family and friends and celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Rooster.

The “Chinese New Year” has become a more global holiday and interest in the Lunar Calendar also seems to be growing. Google has been sharing some Lunar New Year traditions as videos and games from around the world.

This is a year of the Rooster (simplified Chinese: 鸡; traditional Chinese: 雞/鷄) which is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese and other zodiacal systems which are related to the Chinese calendar.

The rooster is the only bird included in the Chinese zodiac, but the Chinese term is more generic, and can apply to barnyard fowl of either sex. In the Tibetan zodiac and the Nepalese Gurung zodiac, the more generic “bird” is in place instead of the Rooster, but the image of the colorful rooster is often used to represent it.

Cleaning house to prepare for family visits is often a part of New Year’s prep, but this cleaning is also a way to cast away bad luck.

In Chinese astrology, each zodiac year is associated with an animal sign and also one of five elements: Gold (Metal), Wood, Water, Fire, or Earth. 2017 is a Fire Rooster year. Element-sign combinations recur every 60 years. It was last a Fire Rooster year in the Western calendar’s 1957.

I learned that according to Chinese astrology, the year of one’s birth sign is the most unlucky year in the 12-year cycle.

For many Americans, today might only be celebrated with some Chinese food. There are lucky dishes associated with the New Year. If the holiday motivates you to get together with family and friends, that is a plus, even if you don’t do a dragon dance, or cast a “Lo Hei” blessing by virtually shredding food.

I’m planning to go out with a childhood friend that I haven’t seen in a few years. My wife is going to do some stir fry for dinner with some longevity noodles (长寿面 Chángshòu Miàn). Their length and unsevered preparation are symbolic of the eater’s life. They are longer than normal noodles and uncut, either fried and served on a plate, or boiled and served in a bowl with their broth.

I wouldn’t mind launching a sky lantern tonight. We made those as kids without knowing it had anything to do with Lunar New Year.  You can also do that virtually on that Google site, which is probably safer but not as much fun.

Chinese New Year: Sheep or Goat?

The Google Doodle decided it is the Year of the Sheep

Today is Chinese New Year which is the longest and most important holiday in the Chinese calendar. It is estimated that almost 3 billion trips will be made across China as people make the journey home to celebrate with their families.

This celebration, known as chun yun, is the longest national holiday in China, spanning a total of fifteen days. Day one is the most important day but the first three days of the new year are a statutory holiday and many people will be off for the first 6 days.

Yes, China has been using the same Gregorian calendar we use here in Paradelle since 1912, but the ancient Chinese lunar calendar is what creates this New Year.

In that lunar calendar, the New Year is changeable and  falls on the second New Moon after winter solstice. That puts it somewhere between January 21 and  February 19.

2014 was the Year of the Horse (though the lunar year is not always comparable to our January-December calendar year) and that has ended but this new year is a bit unusual because you may see it named the Year of the Goat or the Year of the Sheep. The confusion is because the Chinese character “yang” can be translated in colloquial Chinese as either sheep or goat.  I’m reading that in France, it is being called the Year of the Goat. In America, sheep has favor. In China, they are less concerned with the distinction.

I read at the end of 2014 that some people in China were concerned about births and marriages occurring in a sheep year as it was a “bad year.” The common impression is that sheep are meek, doltish “followers.”  Some of this seems to come from the late Qing dynasty (late 19th century)  when the Empress Dowager Cixi and several other high officials were despised. They all happened to be born in the Year of the Sheep/Goat and so it becamse associated with a negative spin. Followers of the Chinese zodiac say that all 12 signs are auspicious, so don’t worry.