~ Seymoure Cray
"An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox." ~ Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher
"You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain."~ Bible: Hebrew, Deuteronomy 25:4.
"You call him a Dumb Ox; I tell you that the Dumb Ox will bellow so loud that his bellowing will fill the world." -- St. Albert the Great in reference to celebrated Christian theologian, Thomas Aquinas
Today is Chinese New Year. I welcome you to 2009~ The Year of the Ox.
If you are anything like me, you have probably noticed the Horoscopes on the Place mat in your local Chinese restaurant and checked to see what animal you are.Their Calendar is nothing like ours. We count each year as an individual year, an individual cycle. Their Calendar is based on a cylinder of repeating cycles. Each Cycle lasting twelve years. It is of course much more complicated than I make it sound. The Chinese associate each year of a 12-year cycle with an animal, and they refer to the years as "the year of the dragon," "the year of the ox," and so on, I myself was born in the year of the Pig. The 12 animals and the years associated with them are often represented on a circular chart, and that is why they are known as animals of the zodiac.
They then figure in the binary Yin Yang cycle. Even years are yang, odd years are yin. Then the elements (wood, fire, earth, water,and Metal.) and even Seasons, days and years,..... See I told you it could get complicated.....
In China, oxen are considered sacred, but in our American society they are loved for another reason; they are high on our food chain. They tend to find their way into America's favorite food, a beef burger.
"Ox" are those of you who were born in the following years: 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, and 1997.
Those born under the influence of the "Ox" are said to be Calm, dependable, honest, caring, honorable, intelligent, industrious, modest, patient, practical, responsible. Those are their good points. As you might have guessed they also have a few negative traits. They can be Petty, inflexible, possessive, dogmatic, gullible, stubborn, critical, intolerant, materialistic. And don't think an Ox will forget the dollar he loaned you last year. He would have repaid you by now and it irks him that you haven't repaid him already. Though they may seem to enjoy plodding along from day to day without griping or complaining, they are actually constantly planning ahead.
Famous people born under the year of the Ox include actors Charlie Chaplin, Bill Cosby, Anthony Hopkins, Sissy Spacek, Jane Fonda, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, and Meryl Streep. Former President Gerald R. Ford was an "Ox", as was the maker of children's magic, Walt Disney. Our New President Barack Obama is also an "Ox".
The Origin of Chinese New Year
According to Chinese myth and folk tales , the origin of Chinese New Year celebrations was to scare away a man-eating monster called Nian. Nian lived in a cave high on the top of a mountain. It came down once a year and attacked villagers at midnight on the eve of a new year Eating his fill of those who did not escape. Villagers were terrified and didn't know what to do. Finally, a villager discovered that Nian was afraid of the color red, fire, and loud banging noises. He advised his fellow villagers to wear red, set fires, and make lots of noise to frighten away Nian. Even though the other villagers doubted him, they had nothing left to loose so they decided to give the advice a try.
As the clocks hands slowly crept past midnight, a new year arrived and, as always, Nian roared from his mountain and charged toward the village at full force. Suddenly, the dark landscape lit up - villagers came out of their homes wearing red outfits, carrying torches, and setting off firecrackers or banging on any object with which they could make noise. was startled, and it fled back to the mountain cave as fast as its feet could carry it. From that point on, Chinese people always celebrate their New Year by wearing red, decorating their houses in red, and lighting firecrackers so that Nian doesn't ever come back. In fact, Guo Nian means not only the wellcome to the passing of an old year but also the celebration of the survival of the anual Attack of Nian
The Chinese New Year is the most important festival in the Chinese calendar. They believe that the first fifteen days of the New Year are the Year's most important days. These days signify the first waxing cycle of the Moon, and set forth the direction for the way the year will go.
Preparations for the New Year include the purchase of new clothes and shoes. Old energy must be cleansed and this means everything! Cabinets and closets and all rooms are scrubbed and cleaned. All furniture is moved so that not a speck of the last years grime will be missed. Any items that are no longer needed or wanted or donated to others.All stale energy has to be gotten rid of before new decorations are put into place.
Another big part of the Chinese New year celebration is to stock up on sweet foods especially "Lian Gao" or a sweet sticky cake. This cake is said to bring Happiness and power to a family. They will also stock up on Mandarin oranges as they believe them to represent gold. One ritual of the day is too have a dancing Lion roll crates of oranges into the homes and businesses on New Years day. Business men will also give Red envelopes with small amount of "luck" Money in them as gifts today to ensure a happy and prosperous new Year for himself as well as his workers. It also considered unlucky to carry any outstanding debt into the New Year.
The last day of the old year is the time to pay respects to one's ancestors. In homes where there are ancestral altars, this is a time when ancestors are invited to join in the reunion celebrations with all members of the family, many of whom would have journeyed back to the ancestral home to eat a special meal together. Traditionally, all the sons of the family return to their parents' home and it is said to be unlucky to eat out on the night of the reunion dinner. All the foods served must have special meanings. At the dinner, all family members should be properly dressed. The women should wear their jewelery as well as their finest clothes in red, as this signifies a continuity of good fortune. No one in the family should wear old worn out clothes to the supper table. No One should look unhappy. Smiling faces bring good luck. The reunion dinner takes place just before midnight. Every child must greet their parents with special greetings. The main door and if possible all other doors should be opened wide. The whole house should be lit signifying a burst of Yang energy.
Each day for 14 Days after Chinese New Years is for something different. One for daughters returning to visit her family and another for friends and relatives to visit. The plans are elaborate and follow thousands of years of traditions. They embrace certain colors and avoid others. There are foods that they will eat and others that they will not touch during this time.
The 15th day, called The Lantern Festival, is a very important day as it is the day of the first Full Moon of the Year. It is always a day of merrymaking and celebration. This is the night when for those not yet married, especially young maidens, to invoke the blessings of the Moon Goddess, so that they may find their one true love.
During the fifteen days, many will go to a temple to make offerings and prayers for good health and happiness. They have many superstions of things that they do and don't do during these days. One that My Daddy always told us not to do on our New Years day as well was not to get a spanking. A spanking or having to be fussed at by your parents sets a tone of discord for the whole year.
In China, the New Year is a time of family reunion. Family members gather at each other's homes for visits and meals, most significantly a feast on New Year's Eve. In the United States, however, many early Chinese immigrants arrived without their families, and found a sense of community through neighborhood associations instead. Today, many Chinese-American neighborhood associations host banquets and other New Year events.
The lantern festival is held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Some of the lanterns may be works of art, painted with birds, animals, flowers, zodiac signs, and scenes from legend and history. People hang glowing lanterns in temples, and carry lanterns to an evening parade under the light of the full moon.
In many areas the highlight of the lantern festival is the dragon dance. The dragon—which might stretch a hundred feet long—is typically made of silk, paper, and bamboo. Traditionally the dragon is held aloft by young men who dance as they guide the colorful beast through the streets. In the United States, where the New Year is celebrated with a shortened schedule, the dragon dance always takes place on a weekend. In addition, many Chinese-American communities have added American parade elements such as marching bands and floats.
What ever your culture, I still wish for you to have a Happy New Year. I hope this year; 2009; the year of the Ox; will be a great Year for us all. Have a wonderful Day!