Illustration by Kathie Farr © 2013.
Still in the holiday mood, residents in Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead and neighboring communities gear up for festivities in celebration of the Lunar New Year also known as Chinese New Year which falls on Feburary 10, 2013.
The Lunar New Year does not fall on the same date each year, as it is determined by the first day of the first full moon of the lunisolar calendar. And though most nations now officially use the Gregorian or Christian calendar, traditionally, people of Chinese and Asian descent including Vietnamese, Philipino as well as many of non-Asian heritage celebrate Chinese New Year, just as Christmas is observed by both followers of Jesus and non-Christians alike.
In Asian culture, the Lunar New Year is observed for 15 days dedicated to prayer and worship, food and fun and a host of observances and culminates with a Lantern Festival.
Lunar New Year parties feature entertainers in Chinese costumes performing the lion dance, intended to ward off evil and bad luck. According to Chinese legends, the also popular dragon dance came about as farmers prayed for rain, for fruitful crops and a bounteous harvest.
However, according to the Chinese Culture Foundation and the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, people living in America or western cultures do not close shop or take two weeks off work, but celebrants still enjoy lavish meals with family and friends, exchange gifts and money, and light up the night sky with exhillerating fireworks.
Societies in general establish their years and months and govern time and date-keeping as the earth orbits around the sun based on astrology, religion, signs, wonders or phenomenon. And some calendars are identified by animals, symbols or elements, and are not always infinite.
For instance, the Gregorian calendar (an evolution of the Julian calendar) is more linear. There are 365 days and an extra day every four years that makes a leap year. New Years Day always falls on January 1 and continues a 12-month cycle year after year. The Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, according to Time and Date.com website.
Whereas, the Chinese calendar operates on a 12-moon cycle, with 353-355 days and a Chinese leap month of 19 extra days which occurs every 3 years. Thus, Chinese New Year falls somewhere between January 21 and February 21, or mid-March in a leap month, this sequence is repeated each year for 60 years and then starts over again. The Chinese calendar dates back to 2697-98, associated with the inauguration of China's Yellow King in 2697 B.C., as listed on the Chinese Horoscope Fortune Calendar website.
Each year aligns with a combination of an element (stem) and an animal name (branch) on the Chinese Astrology calendar. The Chinese Horoscope Fortune Calendar website lists the ten stems of natural or articial elements:
- Jia (growing wood)
- Yi (cut timber)
- Bing (natural fire)
- Ding (artificial fire)
- Wu (earth)
- Ji (earthenware)
- Geng (with metal)
- Xin (wrought metal)
- Ren (running water)
- Gui (standing water)
People, generally, idenify with an animal name based on the year in which they were born, commonly known as their Chinese Zodiac sign, used in fortune-telling and horoscope predictions. The 12 animal names or branches are:
- Zi (rat)
- Chou (ox)
- Yin (tiger)
- Mao (rabbit)
- Chen (dragon)
- Si (snake)
- Wu (horse)
- Wei (sheep)
- Shen (monkey)
- You (rooster)
- Xu (dog)
- Hai (boar/pig)
This 2013 marks the year of the Snake, specifically the Water Snake or Black Snake (water is associated with black in Chinese mythology). Those born in 2013 can be identified by the Zodiac sign of the Snake along with who were born in 1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989 or 2001.
Chinese Astrology calendar also marks each month by animal name. Tiger being the first month of the year, lines up with February 4, 2013, signifying the start of the Chinese Spring.