Today marks the start of the Chinese New Year, or the Lunar New Year in China. This year is the Year of the Pig and many are celebrating what will hopefully be a good year. If you’ve never heard of the Chinese New Year you are probably wondering what does a pig have to do with the new year? Every year in the Chinese calendar is represented by one of twelve different animals, but the exact truth of how these animals were decided is a bit of a mystery.
The Story of the Chinese Zodiac
As I’ve already said, every year is represented by one animal and after the twelve year cycle, it repeats. This year is the Year of the Pig, and in twelve year’s time it will be the Year of the Pig again. If you are born in the Year of the Pig, then that is your Chinese zodiac sign. Just like in the western world we have zodiac signs like Scorpio, Libra and Gemini, the Chinese have their own animal signs. There are differing stories of exactly how the animals of the Chinese Zodiac were decided, here are two different versions:
The first story is that Buddha called all the animals to join him, but only twelve showed up. Of the twelve that showed up, the Pig was the last, and so the Pig is the last animal of the Chinese Zodiac. The entire twelve year cycle of the zodiac is decided by the order which the animals arrived to meet with Buddha: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. The cat was supposed to join in too, but in some stories, it’s rumoured that the cat took a long nap. He was too busy sleeping to meet with Buddha. In other tales he was apparently relying on Rat to wake him up, but Rat forgot – hence the animosity between the two creatures.
The second legend of the Chinese zodiac says that the Jade Emperor called the animals to a Great Event which would name the animals of the zodiac. The animals showed up to the event, but the Emperor didn’t know how to choose which animals should be first, so he decided to hold a race. The animals would all race across a great river and the order they arrived in would determine the order of the Chinese zodiac. The cat and rat were apparently friends before the race, they were not strong swimmers so came up with a plan together to ride on top of the stronger animals. The Ox was the strongest animal and would have been first had the Rat not sneakily ridden him and jumped ahead at the finish line. The cat never made it across the finish line after being pushed off by the rat, or just falling into the water – and we all know how much cats like water, and again this leads to the animosity between cats and rats today! The other animals eventually all made it to the finish line with the Pig coming some time later, after stopping off for something to eat and a having nap (pigs are known to enjoy comforts in the Chinese zodiac).
Whichever legend is true, these stories do add magic to the Chinese zodiac and Chinese new year and they bring meaning to every year and how different we all are as people.
The Chinese New Year celebrates an animal, and we’ve already covered how the animals are all arranged in the same order of twelve. Well, to add to this, every year is also represented by a different element. There are five elements: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire. Each element affects the year differently and supposedly has an effect on us and how we are if we are born to a year with a certain element. For example, this year’s element will be Earth, so we can call it an Earth Pig year. Every year also alternates on whether it is a yang or yin year. I won’t go into the astrology of whether an earth pig is good or bad or what it represents. Bit I will say that Chinese astrology is very complex and even the animals have their own elements so there are lots of factors involved in deciding what sort of year we will have, and how it will effect us all as individuals.
For the most part, reading about this year, everything seems to be good, for the most part. It seems a generally positive year, as I suppose Pig years often are, so we can celebrate the year and enjoy, hopefully, some good fortune.
Happy New Year 🐷
During the New Year, in China and now for some in the west, people exchange red envelopes of money. It’s usually younger members of the family being given envelopes by their elders but it can happen at any age too. The red envelopes are often covered with golden Chinese letters or designs. It is very fortunate to receive such a gift and the colour red is incredibly lucky to the Chinese people all year around, which is why you will see so many Chinese New Year decorations all bright red. It’s a wonderful time of the year and if you’ve ever been fortunate to see some of the festivities in either China, or in my case in the Chinatown in London, then you will see how lovely and fun the celebrations are 🙂
Whether you believe in the Chinese zodiac, new year or not, it is something which I love to give a bit of celebration to. There are millions of people around the world who celebrate this event, and if nothing more it is another new year where you can start again with good intentions. The Chinese celebrate the new year with fireworks and it’s one of the biggest times of year where everyone migrates back to their home and family. It is a wonderful time and I wish every one of you a very happy new year. I hope your year is filled with lots of happy experiences, love and joy! ❤ Happy New Year!! 🐷
-If you know more about the Chinese New Year and Zodiac than I have covered here (or if there’s a chance I have missed or mistaken something) then please get in touch and let me know 🙂
Do you celebrate Chinese New Year? Do you know what zodiac animal you are? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂