By Kathleen Rushall
The year of the Ox is about to commence! The Chinese Lunar New Year is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600 BC. The Chinese calendar is a yearly one, with the start of the year based on the cycles of the moon. Therefore, the beginning of the year can fall anywhere from late January to mid February. This year it falls on January 26th, 2009. Chinese New Year starts on a New Moon and ends with the lantern festival on the full moon 15 days later.
A complete cycle of the calendar takes 60 years and is made up of five cycles of 12 years each. Each of the 12 years is named after an animal. Legend says that Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from the earth. Only 12 came to say farewell and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person was born has a profound influence on his/her personality. The Chinese Zodiac consists of the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.
So, for the first time since 1997, the year of the Ox presents itself in 2009. People born in the year of the Ox are known for their patience, strength of character, and ability to inspire confidence in others. Ox people can also be eccentric and anger easily. While they may have fierce tempers, they are not easily provoked, and are respected for their patience. Although they tend to speak little, when they do express their opinions, they are often eloquent. Ox people are generally easy-going and are mentally and physically alert. They can be extremely stubborn, but are also great listeners. People born in the year of the Ox are particularly compatible with Snake, Rooster, and Rat people.
There are many traditions that accompany the Chinese New Year. This celebration is also known as the Spring Festival, and is the longest and most celebrated event in the Chinese calendar. The celebrations last 15 days and are some of the most festive of the year. Preparations usually begin about one month before the New Year. Homes are thoroughly cleaned to sweep away any traces of bad luck. Doors and windowpanes are given a new coat of red paint and hung with paper scrolls decorated with themes of happiness, wealth, and longevity, a practice believed to keep away ghosts and evil spirits.
Many traditional Chinese homes also have live blooming plants and flowers symbolizing rebirth and wealth such as peony flowers and kumquat trees. Great care is taken to set a good tone for the upcoming year. It is believed that one's behavior during New Year's can decide the mood for the rest of the year; words that sound like unlucky or undesirable events, such as death or poverty, are not to be spoken. Arguments, scolding children, crying, and breaking things are also taboo. During this time, it is typical to wear something red, as this color is believed to ward off evil spirits. Black and white are avoided, as these colors are associated with mourning.
The Chinese use the New Year as a time to express their appreciation for protection and good fortune during the year. It is also a time of reconciliation when debts are paid and old grudges are easily cast aside. Although celebrations of the Chinese New Year vary, the underlying message is one of peace and happiness.