A New New Year

Happy year of the rooster!  This is my 本命年, meaning the zodiac animal is the same as the year I was born (you get one every twelve years).  For those of you that might not be familiar with the Chinese Zodiac, watch this informative video featuring Jackie Chan.  Be sure to turn on the subtitles.

So if you watched the video you’ll know that the order goes: Rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.  The 12-year zodiac runs parallel to a 10 year cycle on the states of heaven, so as far as traditional Chinese (and East Asian in general) culture is concerned, the world is on a 60 year cycle when the two progressions line up.

Why is the zodiac in that order?  Well!  There’s a great story.  Long, long ago, there was no Chinese zodiac. The Jade Emperor wanted 12 animals to serve as his guards so sent an immortal down to the human world to spread the message that the first twelve animals to go through the Heavenly Gate would get the honor, the earlier the better.

Ox and Rat got up early, with Rat catching a ride on Ox’s head, and just before they got to the Gate, Rat jumped off and was the first through, with Ox a close second.  The lazier, but faster Tiger and Hare came in third and fourth, with Dragon and his adoptive son Snake in fifth and sixth, with the other animals in the above order (nothing special in the legend that I found about them).

You might ask where Cat is?  Well apparently back in the day Cat and Rat were neighbors, and Cat was a huge dick.  So when Cat ordered Rat to wake him up on the day of the race, Rat just didn’t, and Cat slept through the whole thing

So what’s a 本命年 (ben ming nian)?  As far as I know, it means I have to wear red clothing on New Year’s Eve and Day to ward off bad luck.  That’s about it, I’ll ask and get back to you on that.

My New Year’s Eve was uneventful.  I ate dumplings as is mandatory in the north, and Hannah and I watched some Japanese TV.  I then walked back home through streets not as deserted as I expected, still a fair amount of cars and people setting off fireworks.  Fireworks are nice, but I also kind of hate them.  My first reaction on hearing them is still gunshots half the time, and they pollute the air like nobody’s business.  Much more chill than last year, which is better for my stomach and liver.

Ubiquitous to Chinese New Year is the New Year’s Gala, which I didn’t watch live this year, but I feel serves as a great snapshot of China in any given year.  It gets rerun fairly often so while I can’t watch it before my train as I was intending, I when it’s put online and give y’all some recap fun.  The three minutes I did catch though were a song and dance number about eating healthy that felt like I imagine tripping acid in Whole Foods would, so there’s that to look forward to.  Happy new year!  May you all be fortunate and may all be as you wish it to be!

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