According to legend, the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from Earth. Only 12 animals came to bid him farewell. As a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. First came the Rat, then the Ox, the Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. These animals represent the 12 signs we have today.
The Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China. In 2021, Chinese New Year began on February 12th and is the Year of the Ox (also known as the Year of the Buffalo). Tied to the Chinese lunar calendar, the holiday was traditionally a time to honor household and heavenly deities as well as ancestors. It was also a time to bring family together for feasting. With the popular adoption of the Western calendar in 1912, the Chinese joined in celebrating January 1st as New Year’s Day, but China continues to celebrate the Chinese New Year with the traditional greeting, “Kung hei fat choi.”
The ancient Chinese lunar calendar, on which Chinese New Year is based, functioned as a religious, dynastic and social guide. Oracle bones inscribed with astronomical records indicate that the calendar existed as early as 14th century B.C.
The Chinese New Year typically begins with the new moon that occurs between the end of January and the end of February, and it lasts about 15 days, until the full moon arrives with the Festival of Lanterns.
In tradition, as preparation for the holiday houses were thoroughly cleaned to rid them of “huiqi,” or inauspicious breaths, which might have collected during the old year. Cleaning was also meant to appease the gods who would be coming down from heaven to make inspections.
Ritual sacrifices of food and paper icons were offered to gods and ancestors. People posted scrolls printed with lucky messages on household gates and set off firecrackers to frighten evil spirits. Elders gave out money to children.
In fact, many of the rites carried out during this period were meant to bring good luck to the household and long life to the family—particularly to the parents.
Here’s hoping for good luck for us all!