What is the Lunar Calendar? • The Lunar Calendar is the traditional manner by which Asian cultures mark time. • The Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Korean have used this type of calendar system. • It is celebrated on the new moon of the first month of the Lunar Calendar. • It is a time for family, friends and celebration. • February 10th 2012 marks the Chinese year 4711. • The Lunar Calendar has been in usage longer than the current Gregorian Calendar.
The Legend of the Great Race • The legend states that long ago there was a Jade Emperor who called upon the animals of the world and declared a race across land and water. • The winners of the race would be given the honor of marking the passage of time for mankind. • The animals began the race, but legend states that a series of interesting things occurred. • The rat and the cat knew that they could not swim, so they asked the steadfast and hardworking Ox to carry them along the race.
The Legend of the Great Race (cont’d) • He agreed and as he carried his charges across the river, the smart rat pushed the cat off of the Ox, landing the feline in the water. As the Ox trudged to land, the Rat leapt off and claimed the win. • The Ox came in second and the swift Tiger claimed the third spot. • The fleet footed rabbit hopped across the logs of the river but nearly slipped into the river. Luckily, a strong wind pushed the rabbit onto the land and across the finish line to take the fourth slot. • Legend states that the noble Dragon, who could fly, sacrificed the lead position because he managed to aid villagers and even the Rabbit along the course of the race. Dragon was fine with finishing fifth. • The Horse was next in line to win, but the snake startled the Horse and slithered to the sixth position. The Horse galloped to take the seventh place of honor.
The Legend of the Great Race (cont’d) • Though some were looking out only for themselves. The Monkey, the Rooster and the Sheep worked together to cross the last leg of the race. • Rooster flew about and spied a raft. He pulled it to the shore and let his two friends climb on. • They floated to the opposing bank of the river and then completed the race. Sheep taking eighth, Monkey in ninth and the Rooster in tenth. • The Dog and the Pig assume the last two positions and the Jade Emperor calls the race as over. • Only 12 places of honor were bestowed and they were all filled. • Sadly…..the Cat never finished the race and now FOREVER hates the Rat.
The Great Race: The Results • The Great Race was won by the cunning Rat. He rode on the back of the steadfast Ox and claimed the lead. He takes the first slot on the calendar. • The sequence of the animals then unfolds in the order they completed the race. • 1st The Rat • 2nd The Ox • 3rd The Tiger • 4th The Rabbit • 5th The Dragon • 6th The Snake • 7th The Horse • 8th The Ram • 9th The Monkey • 10th The Rooster • 11th The Dog • 12th The Pig
The Importance of the Snake • Snake people are viewed intelligent, graceful and shrewd when it comes to financial matters. • They are thought to be decisive and very analytical and thoughtful. Snakes do NOT make rash decisions. • Snakes are friendly and approachable. • Snakes are diligent hard workers and possess solid common sense. • People born under the Year of the Snake like to be surrounded by wealth and the finer things in life.
Defining Traits of a “Dragon” • Traditionally, the Dragon is the symbol of strength and power. • In the tale of the Great Race, the Dragon is “noble” and “heroic.” The Dragon helps troubled villagers and aids the swift rabbit, giving him a better position on the Jade Emperor's Calendar. • The Dragon is considered the most auspicious of the Chinese Zodiac signs. Here, “Dragons” are “mighty” in many respects. • People born under the Year of the Dragon are described as ambitious, independent, passionate, enthusiastic and successful.
Lunar New Year’s Celebration • Traditionally, the New Year’s Celebration is considered the Spring Festival. • It marks the end of the long winter and welcomes the coming change of season. • Fifteen days of celebration are typical. In some Asian countries, businesses and schools shut down. • This time is when families and the community come together to welcome good spirits and prosperity.
Preparing for the New Year • To get ready for the change in the year, families will clean their homes from top to bottom. • Banners, statues and other decorations are placed throughout the home to attract the “good spirits” that watch from above. • Red and gold are colors that are associated with the Lunar New Year. Red represents “vitality” while the gold signifies “wealth” or “prosperity.” • Platters of symbolic foods are placed throughout the home.
Clearing Out the Old Year • People should settle their past year’s debts and obligations. It is best to move forward into the next year with a “clean slate.” • The cleaning of the house will “wipe away” the previous year’s unresolved business and spirits. • Traditionally, families will host a feast to say “farewell” to the exiting year. • They reflect on the year’s activities and evaluate the good and bad that was experienced.
Welcoming the New Year!!! • When the New Year arrives, people in China launch fireworks, play traditional music, raise a glass in celebration and send well wishes to their neighbors. • The custom of handing out “hong bao” or “li sze” is carried out. Here, the elders or married people share their wealth and good fortune with the young and unmarried. • Parades and gatherings help to herald the beginning of the New Year. • Dragon and lion dancers will march through the town to scare off bad spirits and bring good fortune to the citizens.
Red Envelopes • A favorite custom among many Chinese people during the new year is to hand out “Hong Bao” (Mandarin) or “Li Sze” (Cantonese) • Both terms refer to “red envelopes.” • Red envelopes are handed out by married elders to the younger generations and are filled with money. • The purpose of this is to share the “wealth” or “good fortune” friends and loved ones. • The money should be saved and used after the fifteenth day of celebration to buy sweets or needed items.
Chinese Greetings • In Mandarin, Chinese greet each other by saying, “Gong Xi Fa Cai” or “Xin Nian Kuai Le” • In Cantonese, Chinese people greet each other by saying, “Gung Hay Fat Choy!” • Red Envelopes, sweets or reciprocal greetings will be offered.
Spirits, Lanterns and Firecrackers • Chinese people believe that there are “spirits” that co-exist with humankind. • These spirits are “good” and “bad” and are either welcomed into a home or repelled. • Lanterns are used to guide the way for the good spirits and families will leave lanterns or lights on to attract the good spirits. • Firecrackers are lit to scare off the “bad” spirits. Here, firecrackers are lit at midnight and at entryways of homes to drive off the harmful spirits.
Symbolic Foods • Throughout the New Year’s Celebration, families display, offer and dine on foods that are symbols of good fortune, prosperity and luck. • Fat Choy is a black moss that is served. It looks like a cloud of black threads but its name is close to the word for fortune, so Chinese people ALWAYS serve this food item. • Citrus fruits like kumquats, clementines, tangerines, oranges and pommelos signify wealth. They resemble gold coins. • Dumplings are served as they look like silk purses which hold money. • Seeds from pumpkins, lotus plants, watermelon and broad beans represent bounty or plenty. • Sweets are offered also. Sesame candies. Candied lotus pods, coconut strips and other tasty treats are offered to guests to wish them “sweetness” for the New Year.
Welcome the Year of the Snake!!! May the Year of the Snake bring GREAT LUCK, WEALTH and SUCCESS!!!