The history, traditions behind Chinese New Year affect the world.
By M.J. Callahan
Chinese legends dating back to the 12th century B.C. say the Jade Emperor was the ruler of heaven and Earth and hell.
One legend says the emperor organized a race on his birthday for the animals on earth. The first 12 to cross the river were honored by assigning a year of the zodiac in the image of each.
The first 12 animals in order are a rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The Chinese zodiac repeats every 12 years as a result.
Throughout history, tales of the Jade Emperor have been passed down.
The Jade Emperor’s gifts to the 12 animals of the race are still evident today. Many Chinese restaurants still use the Chinese Zodiac calender as a table decoration to entice customers to research which animal represents the year they were born.
Every new year is represented by an animal and its traits, according to the legend of the Jade Emperor.
This year is represented by the seventh animal to cross the river. It is the Year of the Horse.
The Year of the Horse is said to bring high energy, unexpected travel or adventure. Another lesson for the Year of the Horse is that victory will come by avoiding procrastination.
The Chinese New Year is aligned with the first new moon of the new year lasting until the full moon 15 days later.
In China, it is a tradition to celebrate these 15 days focusing on family and tradition, all leading up to the lantern festival.
Many believe it is bad luck to have a large festival until the bad spirits are stopped or sent away, Benavides said.
In China, every day holds significance.
The first day the whole family goes to the oldest member’s house to strengthen the family.
A San Antonio bank employee, Koay Khoon, whose parents are from China, goes with his family to visit his aunt, the oldest member in his family for the holidays. His aunt gives envelopes with money to the youth of the family.
“It represents the wishes for good luck and personal growth for the year,” Khoon said.
On the second day, it is tradition to find a picture of the year before and burn it while wishing for a more prosperous year.
During the third and fourth days, family members show respect to their ancestors by visiting the graves of their ancestors.
On the fifth day, people stay inside to be visited by Li Gui Zu, the god of wealth on his birthday.
However, on the sixth day, everyone is encouraged to get out of the house and visit temples with their family and friends.
In all areas, the seventh day, the human day, is the day to eat. The family enjoys food from their specific area or province of Asia. The eating continues into the eighth day with a family reunion that ends with a midnight prayer to the Jade Emperor.
The Jade Emperor’s origin is told on the ninth day. It talks about him being the god of heaven, Earth and hell.
The 10th through the 12th day is feasting with the family.
The 13th day is the cleansing day. People diet and eat mustard greens to cleanse their bodies.
The 14th day is focused on preparations for the lantern festival. On this day, lanterns are made in various bright colors. Using gold colors represents the full moon.
On the 15th day, celebrations include loud noises, fireworks and brightly colored lanterns. These contribute to scaring away the bad spirits and guiding them to rest.
There is one legend that tells about the evil spirits being guided back home by the lanterns. Others say the lanterns are a way to ask for the return of the light from the gods. Another legend says that the traditions are built out of fear to the wild beast Nien.
It was said Nien appeared at the end of each year attacking villagers.
It remains to be seen whether people who celebrate the Year of the Horse have more travel and unexpected adventure and avoid procrastination.
As in any horoscope, the test of its validity is whether it comes to pass.