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January 17, 2012 > Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

The Year of the Rabbit is dwindling to its last few days and on January 23, 2012, the Chinese Year 4709 will begin as the power of the dragon takes a primary place in the celestial order. Because the Chinese calendar is calculated on an intricate, centuries-old system with both Gregorian and lunar-solar calendar systems, the New Year can occur between late January and mid-February. Characteristics of those born within each year are influenced by a variety of factors including natural elements, colors and male and female forms.

Each year of a 12-year cycle is symbolized by an animal. Legend says that Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to gather with him before he left the earth. Only 12 answered the call and as a reward, he named a year after each one in the order of their arrival. The Chinese believe that the animal ruling the year of your birth has a profound influence on your personality. In order of their appearance, the animals and their personality traits are:

Rat - passionate leaders, organized, dynamic
Ox - hardworking, deliberate, loyal
Tiger - persuasive, adventurous, emotional
Rabbit (Cat) - lucky, problem-solver, peaceful
Dragon - strong, charismatic, confident
Snake - wise, good communicator, innovative
Horse - determined, honest, genuine
Sheep (Goat) - artistic, caring, sensitive
Monkey - creative, reliable, trustworthy
Rooster - successful, brave, independent
Dog - loyal, fashionable, patient
Pig - happy, warm, peaceful

Korean and Japanese zodiac symbols are the same but Vietnamese calendars replace the rabbit symbol with cat and sheep with goat.

Legend tells of a village in China, thousands of years ago, that was ravaged by an evil monster one winter's eve. The following year, it returned again. Before this could happen a third time, the villagers devised a plan to scare the monster away. Red banners were hung everywhere; the color red has long been believed to protect against evil. Firecrackers, drums and gongs were used to create loud noises to scare the beast away. The plan worked and the celebration lasted for days.

Dragons are a dominant image in Chinese culture, revered for their goodness, vigilance, fertility, poise, and supernatural powers. The Chinese believe they are descendants of this incredible creature and so honor him in their customs and traditions. The dragon dance is a staple of celebrations and serves as a demonstration of gratitude for the dragon. Constructed of silk, paper, and bamboo and carried aloft on poles, dragons come alive to the traditional music of drums, cymbals, and gongs. This colorful, exciting dance symbolizes the wish for good luck and success in the New Year. It is believed that the longer the dragon, the more luck will be brought to society.

Celebrations are both literal and symbolic. Spring cleaning begins a month prior to the New Year and must be completed prior to the celebration. New Year is a time for peace and courteous behavior since mean spirited actions invite an unlucky year. Outstanding debts are settled prior to entering the New Year and many follow the tradition of giving red packets called "lai see" to children and friends with an even number of crisp new bills enclosed. New Year celebrations focus on starting out fresh.

Food carries a great deal of importance to the New Year and is plentiful throughout the celebration. Traditional dishes carry old Chinese beliefs and symbolize good wishes for those gathered. A whole fish represents abundance and togetherness, a chicken completely intact symbolizes prosperity, and noodles remain uncut as a representation of long life. The Chinese New Year Cake is a sticky steamed cake made with glutinous rice flour and dried fruit. This cake is an offering to the Kitchen God who is a deity sent to every house to take care of family affairs. The Kitchen God reports to Heaven annually on the family's behavior in the past year, and if he intends an unfavorable report, the sticky cake ensures that this mouth will remain shut.

Celebrations occur around the Bay Area in honor of the Lunar New Year. A Vietnamese New Year celebration, billed as "the largest Vietnamese New Year TET festival overseas" will take place in San Jose January 21-22. For those who would like to celebrate and learn more about Chinese New Year, Citizens For a Better Community, South Bay Chinese Club and Association of Northern California Chinese Schools is hosting a Chinese New Year festival emceed by Lena Zee on Saturday, January 21 at the Alameda County Main Library (Fukaya Room) in Fremont including stories, dance, music, marital arts demonstrations, and arts and crafts. Both events are a wonderful opportunity for the whole family to learn about and celebrate Lunar New Year.

Chinese New Year is a rich tapestry of ancient beliefs and heartfelt celebration, wishing peace, prosperity and happiness for everyone.

Gung Hey Fat Choy
"Wishing You Prosperity and Wealth"

Chinese New Year Celebration
Saturday, Jan 21
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Fremont Main Library
2400 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont
(510) 745-1421

Chinese New Year at NewPark Mall
Sunday, January 22
Noon - 3 p.m.
Center Court
NewPark Mall
2086 NewPark Mall, Newark
(510) 794-5523

Vietnamese Tet Festival $
Saturday, Jan 21 & Sunday, Jan 22
11 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Santa Clara County Fairgrounds
344 Tully Road, San Jose
(408) 295-9210

What is your sign?

Rat 1900, 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
Ox 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
Tiger 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
Rabbit (Cat) 1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
Dragon 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
Snake 1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
Horse 1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2001, 2014
Sheep (Goat) 1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2001, 2015
Monkey 1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2002, 2016
Rooster 1909, 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2003, 2017
Dog 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2004, 2018
Pig 1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2005, 2019

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