The Chinese Zodiac may mean little to you, but the New Year of the Rooster is surely coming in a fortnight. As the proud bird takes on high ground to announce its replacement of the Monkey, many are hoping for a happier, more prosperous orbital period.
Lunar-solar vs gregorian calendar
The traditional Chinese calendar is basically a farmer’s almanac based on the 12 cycles of the Moon in relative to Earth’s eclipse round the Sun. Therefore the 12 “moons” to the year. Within this lunar-solar ( lunisolar ) year, there are 24 cyclic events ( solar terms ), each relative to agricultural practices. The first one — in the first moon of the year — “Spring Begins” ( Li-chun ) corresponds to early February of the Gregorian calendar ( the one that you and I use mostly nowadays ).
Let’s make more festivals
In the old days, when there were no weekends nor day-offs, people make all sorts of festivals and events to take time out. “Spring Begins” may sound like picnic or a hiking now, but it meant get ready to plough the land in those times. Actually much of rural East Asia still refer to this 24 markings — Solar Terms — to work their land. Before all that backbreaking begins, let’s have some fun, the ancients thought. So they created “New Year” as a festival before “Spring Begins”. That is why some people still refer to Chinese New Year as “Spring Festival”.
Another eating spree
Lunar New Year ( another name for the event ) is characterised with decorating the house with flowers and couplets on red paper, house-hopping to say good wishes and dispatching of auspicious red packets ( with real money inside ). People put on nice new clothes and carry large packages of gifts, tagging along their toddlers and seniors. The celebration would not be complete without lots of sweets, nuts, greasy cakes, deep-fried junk food ( oh yes they had that in the old days ), big meals with the family and the widest extend family. It was, and still is, basically a multi-day marathon of gluttony.
Time for serious tea
Serious tea is not to be absent in such time. If not for receiving guests, at least really drink a lot of it to minimise that excess. Or just to feel better. Or stay warm and sane through these wintry days. Like the ancient, there is wisdom in creating a celebration in the deepest of winter.
The world maybe insane and one’s car wheels may skid on ice, Spring will begin again and flowers will bloom anyway, somehow.
Have a Prosperous New Year of the Rooster!