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春节 – The Chinese New Year & The Year of the Dog

春节 (the Spring Festival)or the 农历新年 (the Lunar New Year) is fast approaching! The new year of the dog begins Friday the 16th of February, with the first new moon of the year.  The holiday can fall between the 21st of January and the 20th of February. People start to celebrate the day before the New Year and continue until the 15th day – the Lantern Festival. This year the Lantern festival takes places on the 2nd of March, when people will release red Lanterns to symbolise letting go of the past and moving on into the new year!

Chinese New Year and the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese zodiac is divided into 12 animals; similar to the 12 Western Zodiacs, however each Zodiac represents a year as opposed to a month. This passes in cycles with each year also being associated with an element. 2018 will be the year of the Earth dog, which is the 11th animal in the 12-year cycle.

Your Birth Year ‘本命年’:

The year you are born in decides your zodiac and you won’t be in your zodiac year again for another 12 years! Surprisingly, your zodiac years are the considered the unluckiest in your life and unfortunate events in this year could have lasting effects on you for the rest of your life! So, you are suggested to take extra care to avoid incurring bad luck. Many Chinese people will buy lucky items as talismans, such as red underwear with lucky characters stitched on.

Red underwear laid out in a supermarket for the Chinese new year

There are also lucky numbers, cardinal directions and colours associated with your zodiac.  3, 4 and 9 are lucky for people born in the year of the dog, as are the colours green, red and purple.

The Origins of Chinese New Year

Every year around the new Lunar Year, a mythological beast called Nian was said to come and lay waste to towns and eat people, particularly children. Everyone would hide from the beast until he left. One year an old man appeared and refused to go into hiding, and decided he wanted to get revenge on the Nian. He put red papers up around the door of his house with lucky symbols and set off loud firecrackers. The day after, the villagers discovered that their town wasn’t destroyed. They believed that the old man was in fact a god that came to save them. The villagers then realised that the the colour red and loud noises deterred the beast. Next New Year the villagers hung up red lanterns, wore red clothes, and placed red character scrolls on windows and doors, and they set off firecrackers to frighten away the monster. Ever since, Nian never returned to scare the villagers!

Characters on the Door

You will see Chinese phrases on red scrolls around doorways, such as ‘出入平安’ , meaning peace wherever you go. The most common character is ‘福’ Fú  which means fortune or luck. It is often placed in the centre of the door to ones home, and sometimes you will see that the character has been placed upside down. This is because by placing it upside down there is an added meaning to the character:

Homonyms are common in Chinese language. The Chinese expression ‘福倒了‘ and ’福到了‘ sound identical, so to have 福 upside down also means to have fortune arrive.

New Years Day Celebrations

On New Years day young family members are given red envelopes called hongbao (‘红包) filled with money, fireworks are set off, dumplings are devoured and relatives are put up with. It is a time when Chinese families reunite, with some people travelling vast distances to see their family. The Spring festival period is host to the largest migration of people on earth, with almost 3 billion journeys being made!

Here are some common greetings to say on the New year:

A description of Chinese New Year Greetings

Taboos to avoid doing on the first day of the festival:

  1. Debt: You should not lend money on the day, and debts should be paid before New Year’s Eve.
  2. Washing hair: you’ll wash away your wealth for the year.
  3. Sharp objects: if you cut yourself it is extremely unlucky.
  4. Sweeping and cleaning: If you sweep up then your wealth will be swept away.
  5. Theft: If someone steals from you then your wealth for the year will be ‘stolen.’
  6. Killing anything: Similar to sharp objects, anything associated with blood is very bad luck.
  7. Taking Medicine: you’ll be ill all year.
  8. Monochrome clothing: White and black are the colours associated with sorrow in China.
  9. Giving specific types of gifts: scissors, clocks, or anything with the number 4 (it sounds like death 死) and shoes (they sound like evil!)

Have a happy New Year and remember, watch out for evil shoes!

Chinese Festivals, Cultural

Year of the Horse

As the Chinese say, “A good horse never turns its head to eat the grass behind.” So look ahead, not back.
According to the Chinese Zodiac 2014 is the year of the horse. It starts from January 31 ,2014 until February 18, 2015. Also people born in the year 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990 and 2002 are horses. People born in these years are smart, cheerful, popular, fun and loving.

InternChina - Happy New Year
InternChina – Happy New Year

Strengths that come with being an horse are cleverness, kindness and talent. Although they are stubborn and sometimes talk too much, they are cheerful, perceptive and earthy people. They like entertainment and large crowds. They are popular among friends, active at work and refuse to be reconciled to failure, although their endeavor cannot last indefinitely.

Horses just as all the animals in the zodiac have their weaknesses as well. Their interest may be superficial and lacking real substance. In all other aspects than their daily work they are usually impatient and hot headed. They are independent and rarely listen to advice. Although flamboyant by nature, they are wasteful due to their lack of finance knowledge and budgetary efficiency. They tend to interfere in many things but frequently fail to finish projects of their own.

For the ones who believe in fortune foretelling, read carefully:

In 2014, their fortune will fluctuate in all aspects, so it will require great care. Stress might become a bigger issue, in which case they are advised to talk about it with close friend or councilors, and take part in group activities. If they treat people around them friendly and behave righteously, they will get through the year smoothly.

Career wise they will not seem to keep a harmonious relationship with colleagues, and are easily offended this year. Sometimes they doubt themselves too much, leading to a slow but steady loss of confidence. They will seek confirmation again and again from people around them, in this case be confident and talk about it with family than complaining to colleagues. Keep a low profile and get along with your boss, then your achievement will come.

Their financial fortune will be unstable in 2014. It seems that there will be a much unexpected cost. Consider accepting others suggestions when managing money matters.

The love life of horse people will be so-so, mama huhu like the Chinese say. Singles will meet several people they have feeling for, but none of them will be the right one. If faced with a dilemma, they’d better refer to the idea or suggestion of their relatives and friends. Husband and wife will argue a lot this year, this can be avoided through focussing on communication and mutual understanding. For all lovers, mutual trust is the secret for an everlasting relationship

This year horses might suffer some discomforts health wise. Unexpected injuries might arise by knives and other sharp objects, so be careful! Females should pay attention to problem in urinary system and males need to care more about their stomach. Travelling will help their health. Also remember not to eat too much for each meal.

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