After stopping for food, it became sleepy and dozed off. It did wake up after a while and managed to make it over the line in last place. The Emperor had almost given up on it but was happy to assign it the final space in the zodiac. Although the pair were friends, the cat asked the rat to wake it up for the race as it had a habit of sleeping in.
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The rat was so excited, it forgot. By the time the cat woke up, it was far too late to enter. Hopefully, their friendship survived this most bitter of hiccups. How the past century shaped the country. Arable, pastoral or mixed? It's all explained here. From mammals to amphibians, insects and more. Why a pig is the last animal in the Chinese Zodiac Wacky Races has got nothing on the story behind the Chinese Zodiac. Why was there a race? In first and second place The course included a huge river which every creature, large or small, had to cross.
The Gregorian Calendar dates for Chinese New Year from to are below, along with the year's presiding animal zodiac and its Stem-branch. The traditional Chinese calendar follows a Metonic cycle , a system used by the modern Jewish Calendar , and returns to the same date in Gregorian calendar roughly. The names of the Earthly Branches have no English counterparts and are not the Chinese translations of the animals. Alongside the year cycle of the animal zodiac there is a year cycle of heavenly stems. Each of the ten heavenly stems is associated with one of the five elements of Chinese astrology , namely: Wood , Fire , Earth , Metal , and Water.
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The elements are rotated every two years while a yin and yang association alternates every year. These produce a combined cycle that repeats every 60 years. For example, the year of the Yang Fire Rat occurred in and in , 60 years apart. Many people inaccurately calculate their Chinese birth-year by converting it from their Gregorian birth-year. As the Chinese New Year starts in late January to mid-February, the previous Chinese year dates through 1 January until that day in the new Gregorian year, remaining unchanged from the previous Gregorian year. For example, the year of the Snake began on 6 February The year is generally aligned with the year of the Snake.
However, the year of the Dragon officially ended on 5 February This means that anyone born from 1 January to 5 February was actually born in the year of the Dragon rather than the year of the Snake.
Chinese New Year
Many online Chinese Sign calculators do not account for the non-alignment of the two calendars, using Gregorian-calendar years rather than official Chinese New Year dates. One scheme of continuously-numbered Chinese calendar years assigns to the year beginning in , but this is not universally accepted; the calendar is traditionally cyclical, not continuously numbered. Although the Chinese calendar traditionally does not use continuously numbered years, outside China its years are sometimes numbered from the purported reign of the mythical Yellow Emperor in the 3rd millennium BC.
But at least three different years numbered 1 are now used by various scholars, making the year beginning CE the "Chinese year" , , or According to tales and legends, the beginning of the Chinese New Year started with a mythical beast called the Nian. Nian would eat villagers, especially children.
One year, all the villagers decided to go hide from the beast. An old man appeared before the villagers went into hiding and said that he's going to stay the night, and decided to get revenge on the Nian. All the villagers thought he was insane. The old man put red papers up and set off firecrackers. The day after, the villagers came back to their town to see that nothing was destroyed. They assumed that the old man was a deity who came to save them. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red and loud noises.
When the New Year was about to come, the villagers would wear red clothes, hang red lanterns, and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu , an ancient Taoist monk. After that, Nian retreated to a nearby mountain. The name of the mountain has long been lost over the years.
Chinese New Year is observed as a public holiday in some countries and territories where there is a sizable Chinese and Korean population. Since Chinese New Year falls on different dates on the Gregorian calendar every year on different days of the week, some of these governments opt to shift working days in order to accommodate a longer public holiday. In some countries, a statutory holiday is added on the following work day when the New Year falls on a weekend, as in the case of , where the New Year's Eve 9 February falls on Saturday and the New Year's Day 10 February on Sunday.
For other countries where Chinese New Year is celebrated but not an official holiday, see the table below. During the festival, people around China will prepare different gourmet for families and guests. Influenced by the flourished cultures, foods from different places look and taste totally different.
Among them, the most well-known ones are dumplings from northern China and Tangyuan from southern China. For those that practice Buddhism, the Laba holiday is also considered Bodhi Day. The porridge was prepared by the women of the household at first light, with the first bowl offered to the family's ancestors and the household deities. Every member of the family was then served a bowl, with leftovers distributed to relatives and friends. The concept of the "La month" is similar to Advent in Christianity. Many families eat vegetarian on Chinese New Year eve, the garlic and preserved meat are eaten on Chinese New Year day.
On the days immediately before the New Year celebration, Chinese families give their homes a thorough cleaning. It is believed the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for good luck. Brooms and dust pans are put away on the first day so that the newly arrived good luck cannot be swept away.
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Some people give their homes, doors and window-frames a new coat of red paint; decorators and paper-hangers do a year-end rush of business prior to Chinese New Year. Purchasing new clothing and shoes also symbolize a new start. Any hair cuts need to be completed before the New Year, as cutting hair on New Year is considered bad luck due to the homonymic nature of the word "hair" fa and the word for "prosperity".
Businesses are expected to pay off all the debts outstanding for the year before the new year eve, extending to debts of gratitude. Thus it is a common practice to send gifts and rice to close business associates, and extended family members. In many households where Buddhism or Taoism is prevalent, home altars and statues are cleaned thoroughly, and decorations used to adorn altars over the past year are taken down and burned a week before the new year starts, to be replaced with new decorations. This is done so that the Kitchen God can report to the Jade Emperor of the family household's transgressions and good deeds.
Families often offer sweet foods such as candy in order to "bribe" the deities into reporting good things about the family.
Prior to the Reunion Dinner, a prayer of thanksgiving is held to mark the safe passage of the previous year. Confucianists take the opportunity to remember their ancestors, and those who had lived before them are revered. Some people do not give a Buddhist prayer due to the influence of Christianity, with a Christian prayer offered instead. The biggest event of any Chinese New Year's Eve is the annual reunion dinner. Dishes consisting of special meats are served at the tables, as a main course for the dinner and offering for the New Year.
This meal is comparable to Thanksgiving dinner in the U. In northern China, it is customary to make dumplings jiaozi after dinner to eat around midnight. Dumplings symbolize wealth because their shape resembles a Chinese sycee. In contrast, in the South, it is customary to make a glutinous new year cake niangao and send pieces of it as gifts to relatives and friends in the coming days.
After dinner, some families go to local temples hours before the new year begins to pray for a prosperous new year by lighting the first incense of the year; however in modern practice, many households hold parties and even hold a countdown to the new year. Watching it has gradually become a tradition in China.
The first day is for the welcoming of the deities of the heavens and earth, officially beginning at midnight. It is a traditional practice to light fireworks, burn bamboo sticks and firecrackers and to make as much of a din as possible to chase off the evil spirits as encapsulated by nian of which the term Guo Nian was derived. Many Buddhists abstain from meat consumption on the first day because it is believed to ensure longevity for them. Some consider lighting fires and using knives to be bad luck on New Year's Day, so all food to be consumed is cooked the days before.
On this day, it is considered bad luck to use the broom, as good fortune is not to be "swept away" symbolically. Most importantly, the first day of Chinese New Year is a time to honor one's elders and families visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, usually their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
For Buddhists, the first day is also the birthday of Maitreya Bodhisattva better known as the more familiar Budai Luohan , the Buddha-to-be. People also abstain from killing animals. Some families may invite a lion dance troupe as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Chinese New Year as well as to evict bad spirits from the premises. Business managers also give bonuses through red packets to employees for good luck, smooth-sailing, good health and wealth. While fireworks and firecrackers are traditionally very popular, some regions have banned them due to concerns over fire hazards.
For this reason, various city governments e. As a substitute, large-scale fireworks display have been launched by governments in such city-states as Hong Kong and Singapore. However, it is a tradition that the indigenous peoples of the walled villages of New Territories , Hong Kong are permitted to light firecrackers and launch fireworks in a limited scale. Traditionally, married daughters didn't have the opportunity to visit their birth families frequently.
During the days of imperial China, "beggars and other unemployed people circulate[d] from family to family, carrying a picture [of the God of Wealth] shouting, " Cai Shen dao! Business people of the Cantonese dialect group will hold a 'Hoi Nin' prayer to start their business on the 2nd day of Chinese New Year so they will be blessed with good luck and prosperity in their business for the year.
A representative from the government asks Che Kung about the city's fortune through kau cim. Rural villagers continue the tradition of burning paper offerings over trash fires. It is considered an unlucky day to have guests or go visiting. In those communities that celebrate Chinese New Year for 15 days, the fourth day is when corporate "spring dinners" kick off and business returns to normal. Other areas that have a longer Chinese New Year holiday will celebrate and welcome the gods that were previously sent on this day.
This day is the god of Wealth's birthday. In Taiwan, businesses traditionally re-open on the next day the sixth day , accompanied by firecrackers. It is also common in China that on the 5th day people will shoot off firecrackers to get Guan Yu 's attention, thus ensuring his favor and good fortune for the new year. The sixth day is Horse's Day, on which people drive away the Ghost of Poverty by throwing out the garbage stored up during the festival.
The ways vary but basically have the same meaning - to drive away the Ghost of Poverty, which reflects the general desire of the Chinese people to ring out the old and ring in the new, to send away the previous poverty and hardship and to usher in the good life of the New Year. The seventh day, traditionally known as Renri the common person's birthday , is the day when everyone grows one year older.
In some overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Singapore, it is also the day when tossed raw fish salad, yusheng , is eaten for continued wealth and prosperity. For many Chinese Buddhists, this is another day to avoid meat, the seventh day commemorating the birth of Sakra , lord of the devas in Buddhist cosmology who is analogous to the Jade Emperor. Another family dinner is held to celebrate the eve of the birth of the Jade Emperor, the ruler of heaven. Come midnight of the eighth day of the new year, Hokkiens will offer thanks to the Emperor of Heaven.
A prominent requisite offering is sugarcane. Incense, tea, fruit, vegetarian food or roast pig, and gold paper is served as a customary protocol for paying respect to an honored person. Candles are lit outside houses as a way to guide wayward spirits home. This day is celebrated as the Lantern Festival , and families walk the street carrying lighted lantern. In China , Malaysia , and Singapore , this day is celebrated by individuals seeking a romantic partner, akin to Valentine's Day.
The taste is an indication of their possible love: sweet represents a good fate while sour represents a bad fate. The venue will usually be in or near the home of the most senior member of the family. The New Year's Eve dinner is very large and sumptuous and traditionally includes dishes of meat namely, pork and chicken and fish.
Most reunion dinners also feature a communal hot pot as it is believed to signify the coming together of the family members for the meal. Most reunion dinners particularly in the Southern regions also prominently feature specialty meats e. If in the previous year a death was experienced in the family, seven dishes are served. Red packets for the immediate family are sometimes distributed during the reunion dinner.
These packets contain money in an amount that reflects good luck and honorability. Several foods are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune. Several of the Chinese food names are homophones for words that also mean good things. Like many other New Year dishes, certain ingredients also take special precedence over others as these ingredients also have similar-sounding names with prosperity, good luck, or even counting money.
In , the ruling Kuomintang party in China decreed that Chinese New Year will fall on 1 Jan of the Gregorian Calendar, but this was abandoned due to overwhelming opposition from the populace. The State Council of the People's Republic of China announced that the public should "Change Customs", have a "revolutionized and fighting Spring Festival", and since people needed to work on Chinese New Year Eve, they did not have holidays during Spring Festival day.
The public celebrations were reinstated by the time of the Chinese economic reform. Sometimes chocolate coins are found in the red packet. Odd and even numbers are determined by the first digit, rather than the last. Thirty and fifty, for example, are odd numbers and are thus appropriate as funeral cash gifts.
It is customary for the bills to be brand new printed money. Everything regarding the New Year has to be new in order to have good luck and fortune. A married person would not turn down such a request as it would mean that he or she would be "out of luck" in the new year. Red packets are generally given by established married couples to the younger non-married children of the family.
It is custom and polite for children to wish elders a happy new year and a year of happiness, health and good fortune before accepting the red envelope. Red envelopes are then kept under the pillow and slept on for seven nights after Chinese New Year before opening because that symbolizes good luck and fortune. In Taiwan in the s, some employers also gave red packets as a bonus to maids , nurses or domestic workers from Southeast Asian countries, although whether this is appropriate is controversial.
The Japanese have a similar tradition of giving money during the New Year, called Otoshidama. In addition to red envelopes, which are usually given from older people to younger people, small gifts usually food or sweets are also exchanged between friends or relatives of different households during Chinese New Year. Gifts are usually brought when visiting friends or relatives at their homes. Common gifts include fruits typically oranges, but never trade pears , cakes, biscuits, chocolates, and candies.
Certain items should not be given, as they are considered taboo. Taboo gifts include:   . Markets or village fairs are set up as the New Year is approaching. These usually open-air markets feature new year related products such as flowers, toys, clothing, and even fireworks and firecrackers.
It is convenient for people to buy gifts for their new year visits as well as their home decorations. In some places, the practice of shopping for the perfect plum tree is not dissimilar to the Western tradition of buying a Christmas tree. Bamboo stems filled with gunpowder that was burnt to create small explosions were once used in ancient China to drive away evil spirits. In modern times, this method has eventually evolved into the use of firecrackers during the festive season. Firecrackers are usually strung on a long fused string so it can be hung down.
Each firecracker is rolled up in red papers, as red is auspicious, with gunpowder in its core. Once ignited, the firecracker lets out a loud popping noise and, as they are usually strung together by the hundreds, the firecrackers are known for their deafening explosions that are thought to scare away evil spirits. The burning of firecrackers also signifies a joyful time of year and has become an integral aspect of Chinese New Year celebrations. Although the use of firecrackers are considered a traditional part of Chinese New Year festivities safety issue are present.
In response to these issues, many governments and authorities eventually enacted laws completely banning the use of firecrackers. During the New Year holidays, the stage boss gathers the most popular actors whom from various troupes let them perform repertories from Qing dynasty. Nowadays people prefer celebrating the new year with their family by watching these movies together. Each sign is named after an animal, and each animal has its own unique characteristics. Do you know why the 12 Chinese zodiac animals are in the sequence above?
The following story reveals legendary reasons, and some of the characteristics of the 12 animals. The story is widespread and widely varying among Chinese.
10 Chinese New Year Myths
Though it is made up, it might be interesting for you to tell your children and friends. Long, long ago, there was no Chinese zodiac. The Jade Emperor wanted to select 12 animals to be his guards. He sent an immortal being into man's world to spread the message that the earlier one went through the Heavenly Gate, the better the rank one would have. The next day, animals set off towards the Heavenly Gate. Rat got up very early. On his way to the gate, he encountered a river. He had to stop there, owing to the swift current. After waiting a long time, Rat noticed Ox about to cross the river and swiftly jumped into Ox's ear.