Are you ready for the year 4704?

The Chinese celebration of the New Year is very different from that of the Western world. On Jan. 29, Chinese people everywhere welcomed the Year of the Dog and with it, ushered in the year 4704.

This very auspicious day determines the outcome of the rest of the year.

The Chinese calendar is determined differently than the Western one. In fact, we are heading into the year 4704. Chinese New Year is also known as the “Lunar New Year” or the “Spring Festival”. It is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, which usually falls after the winter solstice, on the day of the second following new moon.

The holiday is first and foremost a time for families to get together to celebrate. It has also been a special time to remember family members who have passed away. The holiday has added significance because – customarily – Chinese people would celebrate their birthdays on New Year’s Day regardless of the month they were actually born.

The last days of the old year are spent frantically preparing, buying presents, decorations, and food. Houses are cleaned from top to bottom. It is important to clear dust and dirt from every surface, sweeping out bad luck from the previous year, and leaving a pristine path for good luck to take its place.

It is bad luck to clean on New Year’s Day. Brooms and mops are put away before the day itself. Doors and windows are often newly painted. Banners made from red and gold paper are hung on the doors to keep in good luck. These are marked with messages of good fortune.

Just as all of these actions hold a special symbolism, flowers and small trees that decorate the homes each carry their own good fortune. Kumquat trees, narcissus and peonies bring prosperity. Peach blossoms can strengthen romantic relationships, and tangerine plants with leaves intact help to ensure marriages.

On New Year’s Eve there is a family banquet. The feast is very large since the tremendous amount of food prepared at this time is meant to symbolize abundance and wealth for the household.

Foods served often include a whole fish, which represents togetherness, as well as a whole chicken, presented in its entirety with head, tail and feet, to symbolize completeness. If there are noodles, they are uncut – signifying long life. Candied fruits symbolize a sweet new year, lychee nuts represent strong family relationships, peanuts for longevity, and any baked goods that contain seeds which represent fertility.

On New Year’s Day many Chinese families eat a particularly special vegetarian soup. Each of its various ingredients – mostly root or fibrous vegetables – contain their own attribute that increases the good luck.

Lotus root signifies the wish of having many male offspring. Ginkgo nuts represent the prosperity people desire for their acquaintances. Black moss seaweed is a homonym for wealth. Dried bean curd is for fulfillment of wealth and happiness.

Further traditions include shooting off firecrackers on New Year’s Eve. For the Chinese, as with the New Year’s celebration in North America, sparkling explosions high in the night sky are a way of sending out the old year and welcoming in the new. Following the display, at the stroke of midnight, every door and window in the house is opened to allow the old year to gracefully exit.

There are more superstitions that are no longer as strictly observed. It was believed that absolutely anything one did would be an indication of the year to come. No swearing, crying, or lending was permissible. In great contrast to North American tradition, references to the past year were also painstakingly avoided, as everything should be focused on the New Year and a new beginning.

Tradition also stipulated that all food be prepared before New Year’s Day so that any sharp implements, such as knives and scissors, could be put away so as not to interfere with or “cut off” the luck and fortune of the New Year.

Although many Chinese people no longer uphold these superstitions, the customs are often still practiced. This is done out of respect for one’s ancestors and in basic reverence of tradition. The traditions represent ties to the past. Many people who have emigrated follow these traditions, and introduce them to their children, because of their unbreakable bonds to China.


Chinese Horoscope for 2006: The Year of the Dog

Dog (1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006)

Dog people are loyal and energetic, and are invaluable community members who seldom desire to lead but are very supportive. They often inspire other people’s confidence because they know how to keep secrets. However, they are also known to be aggressive, and can be over-conservative. They can find fault with many things and are noted for their sharp tongues.

But this is your year, literally! The year to break the mold, to seize the day by exploring new opportunities, and new relationships with people who will be won over by your natural honesty, you’re called “man’s best friend” for good reason.

Pig (1947, 1959, 1971, 1983)

Pig people are sincere, tolerant, optimistic and determined. They are the cheerful people that concern themselves with more domestic matters and, like the dog, help out others. Sometimes pig people have been known to be lazy, and indifferent to larger issues.

This will be a quiet year. Is it a good time for preparing for the future through studies and money management and to stop rolling around in the mud and re-evaluate career choices and goals.

Rat (1948, 1960, 1972, 1984)

Rat people are quick-witted and charming, which leads to their popularity. They must take care not to misuse their intelligence, and not be tempted to be sly and manipulative to achieve their goals.

The year of the dog is a time to nurture relationships with those who have proven their loyalty. Remain disciplined, but business can wait. Build up your nest and you will be thankful in the long run.

Ox (1949, 1961, 1973, 1985)

Ox people can always be relied upon. They persevere to reach their goals, and have strong ideas. This can border on stubbornness and must be kept in check; a good whip to the hindquarters never hurt anyone!

You will be challenged by an exceptionally busy year, but take it step-by-step and in the end, each experience will have only made you stronger.

Tiger (1950, 1962, 1974, 1986)

Tiger people are loaded with ambition, charisma and courage. In the past they made the best warriors, today they are passionate leaders. They sometimes get carried away when reaching a goal, becoming ruthless, indifferent to the opinions of others and “catty” when challenged.

This year try to be charming rather than authoritative when trying to get your way, and value the advice of others.

Hare (1951, 1963, 1975, 1987)

Hare people are social and are valued for their diplomacy. They are extraordinarily modest despite holding the respect of others. They can be insecure, and occasionally moody.

People cannot help liking you, so stop beating about the blackberry bush and go for it. Straighten your whiskers, give the ground a good thump, and face the world.

Dragon (1952, 1964, 1976, 1988)

Dragon people strive for perfection; they are idealists – creative and flamboyant. The dragon is a mythical beast, and their traits are otherworldly, making them inspiring political and religious leaders and respected actors and artists. It is the lack of recognizing what is real that can get them into trouble.

Do not let your ego get in the way of what is already in your grasp. This year is entirely up to you, you are capable of reaching for the sun.

Snake (1953, 1965, 1977, 1989)

Snake people are elegant, intelligent, and very in tune with their environment. They like good books, good food, and the rest of the finer things in life. Yet they can also be greedy and devious.

The Year of the Dog is a time to “come out of your skin”. Take risks and enjoy what is really important to you while still achieving your goals.

Horse (1954, 1966, 1978, 1990)

Horse people are the most adventurous sign, and are also very hardworking. However, they are known to be restless and reckless when tethered for too long.

If life is a race, be the first off the starting line, and be ready to capitalize on opportunities as they present themselves. Don’t forgot to breath! Take the time to be watered and fed every so often, or you will be run into the ground.

Ram (1955, 1967, 1979, 1991)

Ram people are warm individuals, ready both to charm and lend a sensitive ear. They suffer from being indecisive and overly cautious.

Get over this now, or you’ve got a very baaaaa-d and unlucky year ahead. Don’t worry so much, your past loyalties will lend you a hand.

Monkey (1956, 1968, 1980, 1992)

Monkey people are lively and curious. They can adapt to almost any new situation, but often need a guiding hand (a man in a yellow hat?) to achieve a final goal. They can be frivolous, arrogant, mischievous and unreliable, but have the uncanny ability to always make others laugh.

Now is the time to listen to people around you, and become aware of your environment. Become informed before you decide your next step.

Rooster (1957, 1969, 1981, 1993)

Rooster people just entertained a very lucky year. Their energy, intelligence and outspokenness will carry through. But take care not to come off abrasively to new and old acquaintances.

This year will be harder and less exciting than the last, and constant vigilance is required to stay on top. You’ll still want to be the first to crow at dawn, but if the going gets tough, silence is golden.


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