Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Discussion in 'General Chatter' started by Exohedron, Feb 5, 2019.

  1. Exohedron

    Exohedron Doesn't like words

    The Chinese Lunar New Year is pinned to the second new moon after the winter solstice for complicated reasons involving trying to reconcile the lunar cycles with the solar cycles and the Western calendar. So that means that this year it falls on today, February 5th (which I am aware has already passed for a good number of you).

    Although often just called Chinese New Year, it is also celebrated as the traditional new year in countries influenced by China, from the Koreas in the north to Indonesia and Malaysia in the south, and from Thailand in the west to the Philippines in the east.

    It's a time to eat lucky foods (that are often considered lucky because of puns) and light firecrackers and dance around wearing lion costumes and waving dragon puppets.


    Also religious stuff if you're into that sort of thing.

    There is also astrological significance. The Western Zodiac has the different signs claiming months, while the Chinese or Eastern Zodiac goes by years.

    The story, as it was told to me by my grandmother, is that long ago, the Jade Emperor declared that the animals of the world would run a race, and that the years would be ordered in terms of who got which place. And so the animals raced for the prestige of having a year in the cycle in their name.
    Only the clever rat, knowing that he would be outpaced by the larger competitors, secretly clung to the swift ox, and when they approached the finish line, launched himself from the ox's back to take first place.

    My grandmother obviously told it a lot better, and/or I was like 4 years old and had lower standards for stories.

    Anyway, the end result is the cycle of animals, which goes

    Rat: 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
    Ox: 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
    Tiger: 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
    Rabbit: 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
    Dragon: 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
    Snake: 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
    Horse: 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
    Ram: 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
    Monkey: 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016
    Rooster: 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017
    Dog: 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
    Pig: 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

    That's right, it is now the Year of the Pig, and next year we start the cycle again.

    Note: some countries have slightly different animals in the various positions; I've given the Chinese list because that's the one that you hear about most often.

    Of course, we make things more complicated. In addition to a cycle of twelve animals, there is also a cycle of five elements: metal, water, wood, fire, and earth, and two principles, yin and yang. These together form a ten year cycle:

    Yang metal: 2000, 2010
    Yin metal: 2001, 2011
    Yang water: 2002, 2012
    Yin water: 2003, 2013
    Yang wood: 2004, 2014
    Yin wood: 2005, 2015
    Yang fire: 2006, 2016
    Yin fire: 2007, 2017
    Yang earth: 2008, 2018
    Yin earth: 2009, 2019

    So we're currently in a Yin earth pig year. I have no idea what that means from a horoscope standpoint.

    Between the principles and the elements and the animals, we end up with a 60 year cycle in total. Hence one's 60th birthday is considered particularly important in China, that one has been around for an entire cycle.

    [Edit] To be clear, there is a monthly cycle in the Chinese Zodiac as well, but that happens every year so it's less exciting.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
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  2. Exohedron

    Exohedron Doesn't like words

    So I missed last year because of ummmmm but this year I remembered! It's the Year of the Ox! Happy New Year!

    In Vietnam, the zodiac has a water buffalo instead of an ox, which makes sense since Vietnam has a lot of water buffalo. There's also a cat instead of the rabbit! Not entirely sure why this change.
    In some variations of the Chinese myth, a cat is mentioned, either not being invited or being too lazy to participate.
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  3. ChelG

    ChelG Well-Known Member

    Happy new year!

    In the versions I've heard, and I'm not Chinese so I make no claim as to the authenticity, Rat invited Cat, who asked Rat to wake them up in time. Rat forgot and added insult to injury by winning the race, and that's why cats have hunted rats ever since. Cats often also hunt rabbits, so, yeah, makes sense to me!
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