It’s January 31st, Happy Chinese New Year!
It seems that the Chinese New Year is like a rickshaw, literally a moveable feast. The Chinese New Year can take place on a different date each year and lasts for 15 days rather than just for a few bongs of Ben Ben. The exact date of Chinese New Year is determined by the lunisolar cycle. That means the calendar is based on exact astronomical observations of the sun's longitude and moon phases. Well, would you expect anything else from the inventors of the crossbow, spaghetti, gunpowder, paper, the compass, nail varnish, kite flying, Pekinese dogs and chop suey sauce?
This year’s New Year is later than usual. But let’s not split bamboo, let’s break out the Tsing Tsao and have a jorry good knees-up. So solly to be frippant, but I guess I’m one those people for who the Chinese New Year is a bit a novelty; all firecrackers, a number 64 with fried rice, dancing Chinese dragons and not a single Scotsman or lump of coal in sight. Of course it might be different if I were a Chinaman.
Yes, if I were Fu Manchu I’d know that the beast Nian, a monster which appears at the end of every year and attacks people, a bit like a psychotic Santa, is on the prowl. That’s why some time in the mists of a venerable Chinese past, villagers worked out that loud noise, bright lights, and the colour red would keep Nian at bay. Yes, these Chinese are dashed inscrutable Biggles.
I’m no Charlie Chan, but even I can work out that Nian is probably a legend. But so what? Animals are integral to the Chinese New Year and every year is linked to the Chinese Zodiac. Twelve animals - Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig, and Horse - each represent different years. 2014 is the year of the horse and the Chinese believe that someone born in a particular year will share similar attributes to the animal with which that year is associated. Woah Neddy!
I was born in 1957 which was the year of the Rooster. Okay, let’s leave the cock jokes out shall we? Why it couldn’t be the Horse or the Tiger, animals that I feel more represent my personality and physique, is beyond me. But I guess it could have been worse; Rat, Pig, Dog, all spring to mind. My wife would probably have said Snake; mind you she was born in the year of the Dragon which is probably about right seeing as she has been known to breathe fire when she’s annoyed.