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CELEBRATING THE YEAR OF THE DOG
As told to:  IRIDE APARICIO
By S.F. ASIAN MUSEUM Educator TRIANA PATEL


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Photos courtesy: Asian Art Museum

SAN FRANCISCO, CA –  Different nations use different calendars. America and Europe use the Solar or Gregorian Calendar, Asian and some countries in the Middle East use The Lunar Calendar.

As its name indicate, “The Lunar calendar”  is based upon the moon and the monthly cycles of the Moon’s phases, so in  the Lunar Calendar the months of the year may begin during different days: on The New moon, on The Full Moon or at any other phase of the moon. And  because each “lunation”(the time that elapses between two successive new moons) is approximately 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 seconds, it is common for those who follow  a Lunar Calendar to alternate between months of 29 days and months of 30 days.

In relation to the “Gregorian of Solar Calendar,” of 365 or 366 days, the  “Pure” Lunar Calendar  loses  11 days per year. Because of it, the Lunar Year is short. It has only 345 days, 8 hours, 48 minutes and 34 seconds.  

What is the first day of the month in the LUNAR CALENDAR?
People who follow the Lunar Calendars differ on which day if the  first day of the month for them. In the Chinese Calendar, for instance, the first day of a month is the day when a “new Moon” occurs in a particular time zone. In the Hindu calendar on the day after “The Full Moon” appears, and in the Hebrews’ calendar, the first day is indicated by the sighting of the Crescent Moon.

ASTROLOGICAL CALENDAR
In  the Chinese Culture, the years, months and days have been also closely related with Astrology (The study of the position of celestial bodies in the sky).

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There are  twelve different animals in the Astrological Chinese calendar, One animal for each month of the year. Those who believe in Astrology, (The influence that the celestial bodies have in our lives) think that the characteristics of  those animals influence the nature of the babies who are born in a particular  year. In the Astrological Chinese Calendar, 2018 is the year of the DOG.

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Ceramic dog with harness

Discussing different aspects of  the Chinese New Year  with ASIAN ART MUSEUM OF S.F. Youth and Family Programs Educator, TRIANA PATEL, she explains to CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL the origin of the Astrological calendar by telling us that centuries ago the JAY KING invited the animals to have a feast with him to celebrate the New Year, and that the animals had a race to get to his palace.  That the animals that we now see in the calendar, are the twelve who arrived first at the palace, arranged in the order in which they arrived. She adds that the RAT was the one who arrived first  because she is was the most clever and she found a way to beat up all the other animals in the race.

"The calendar is similar to a Horoscope," she tells us, “so, people  who believe in Astrology,believe that their character is associated with the characteristic of their Year of Birth animal. According to the calendar, people born in the years of the  DOG are honesty, intelligence ,  have a very strong sense or responsibility and are stubborn. They  are good in humanitarian work, and can really be dedicated to something. Examples of former years of the DOG were l934, 1946, l958, l970, l982, l994, and 2006. So those who were born in any of those years, this year of the DOG (2018) will be a very special for them.”   

"The animals in the Astrological Chinese Calendar are also associated with the earth elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Wood and Metal." she adds "These elements have different meaning also, and because they rotate, this year will the year of the DOG will have EARTH, as its element. Twelve years from now, there will be another year of the DOG, but EARTH won’t be its element again for another sixty years."

PREPARING FOR THE NEW YEAR

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   ZAO JUN or ZAO CHEN

The KITCHEN GOD (pictured above) is a moral force  in the Chinese families. His role is to watch over their  domestic affairs, so many Chinese homes have a picture or a paper image of the deity hung throughout the year near their kitchen stove,  The Chinese believe that a week before the CHINESE NEW YEAR, this god ascends to heaven to present his yearly report about the behavior of each family member to the JADE Emperor, so during this time, special foods are offered to him, so that he speaks well of the family. His ascent to heaven is accomplished by the people by burning his paper image. The smoke rising to the heavens representing  his journey to the Emperor of Heaven. Fire crackers are lighted with the purpose to the speed his travel.

HOUSE CLEANING
Traditionally, also in Chinese homes is to clean their houses on the 28th month of the old year using bamboo leaves since bamboo is believed to drive out the evil spirits. Cleaning the house for the Chinese symbolizes sweeping out misfortune or traces of bad luck.  However, no house cleaning is done during the first three days of the new year because it is believed that the upcoming good luck would be swept out of the house if one does.

After the house is cleaned, the house is is decorated with symbols like this vase. Bats, are a symbol of good luck in China.

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Also around the the house red banners featuring words like “longevity” “Good Luck” and “Happiness.”  are placed on doorways and windows to scare away  Nian. PINYING:NIAN SHU.

Chinese mythology, explains that Nian was a beast (similar to a lion) who lived in the mountains and came down only to destroy the farmers' crops. One day, however, they discovered that the monster was afraid of loud noises, bright lights and the color red, so to scare  it,  the villagers made a model of the animal with bamboo, paper and cloth and animated it with two men within. This is the origin to the famous “LION DANCE” during the Chinese New Year, and also of the lanterns, the noise of drums and the firecrackers which according to TRIANA have an special meaning for the Chinese because the word for explode in Mandarin sounds similar to word for Announcing, so when people explodes firecrackers what they are doing is announcing the new year.   

GIFTS and FOOD

During the Chinese New Year families also gift gifts to each other, usually red envelopes with money inside (but this money has bo be newly minted not old bills, so you may have to go to the bank to get it).  We were informed by another source that some Chinese parents don’t usually give toys to their children because they prefer that when playing, their children exercise their minds.  

Adding to the information TRIANA tells us that a big part of the Lunar New Year is Food and people celebrate it eating together on those days. She adds that the dishes prepared for The Lunar New Year by the Chinese, also have special meanings.


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During our investigation, we also learned that the New Year is the most important traditional Chinese holiday, and that the origin of the celebration is thousands years old. However, because its origin is based in legends, it is unclear when the first New Year was celebrated before the Qin Dynasty. All we learned is that when the Spring Festival probably initiated in the SHANG Dynasty. It was under the HANG and TANG Dynasties that today’s  rituals  became popular.

In traditional Chinese, the new year is called Pinyin: Nongly xinnian. The name means Agrarian Calendar, because the Lunar New Year, is the marking of the Spring Season, The Winter is over, and the people are looking at the new crops.

The Lunar New Year is celebrated in different countries including Vietnam, Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia to name a few, TRIANA adds, that each one of these countries have their own traditions. As celebrated by the Chinese, the celebration lasts fifteen days. This year it will start on February 16 (actually on Thursday the 15 at night) and will go on until the 3rd of March with the Lantern Festival.”

THE LUNAR NEW YEAR CELEBRATION: YEAR OF THE DOG will be on Sunday February 18th from l0:30 AM to 4PM at the ASIAN ART MUSEUM in San Francisco, 200 Larkin Street, S.F. 9402.   It will feature food, dancing, performances, activities for children, story telling and the Chinese Acrobatics of the group Red Panda. All are invited, the entrance is free.