Sunday, January 29, 2006

Today is Lunar New Year of the Dog.

Chinese New Year (Chinese: 春節, 春节, Chūnjíe; or 農曆新年, 农历新年, Nónglì Xīnnián), also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It consists of a period of celebrations, starting on New Year's Day, celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, i.e. the day of the second new moon after the day on which the winter solstice occurs, unless there is an intercalary eleventh or twelfth month in the lead-up to the New Year—in such a case, the New Year falls on the day of the third new moon after the solstice. (The next time this occurs is in 2033.) The Chinese New Year period ends with the Lantern Festival, on the fifteenth day of the festival.

Legend has it that in ancient China, Nian ("Nyehn") was a man-devouring predator beast that could infiltrate houses silently. The Chinese soon learned that Nian was sensitive to loud noises and the color red, and they scared it away with explosions, fireworks and the liberal use of color red domestically. These customs led to the first New Year celebrations.

Celebrated internationally in areas with large populations of ethnic Chinese, Chinese New Year is considered to be a major holiday for the Chinese as well as ethnic groups such as the Mongolians, Koreans, the Miao (Chinese Hmong), the Vietnamese (see Tết), Tibetans, the Nepalese and the Bhutanese (see Losar) who were influenced by Chinese culture in terms of religious and philosophical worldview, language and culture in general. Chinese New Year is also the time when the largest human migration takes place when Chinese all around the world return home on the eve of Chinese New Year to have reunion dinners with their families.

The dog (狗; pinyin: gǒu) is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. According to Chinese folklore, each animal is associated with certain personality traits. People born in this year are loyal, honest, and trustworthy, but can also be stubborn and selfish. Dogs get along with Horses, Rabbits, and Tigers. People born in dog years may encounter discrimination in China during 2006, due to the belief that they will attract bad luck during the year. They may be denied jobs, homes, and other amenities by those who fear to be caught in whatever misfortunes befall them.

So Happy Year of the Dog!

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