Bringing in the Chinese New Year | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Bringing in the Chinese New Year

This past Friday marked the beginning of the Year of the Earth Dog.

Chinese New Year, a festival that lasts around 15 days, is the most important holiday in China and traditionally marked a time to honor household and ancestors by bringing everyone together to feast. The celebration is an ancient festival that has thousands of years worth of history and is celebrated throughout countless Asian cultures, and all around the world, too.

While the Chinese eventually adopted the practice of celebrating the Western calendar too, they continue to celebrate their own new year, with the traditional greeting, "Kung hey fat choi." The entire household joins together to fixate on the celebrations, businesses close up shop and home and family dominate events.

The date of the new year is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar — evidence shows that this existed as early as 14th century B.C. The structure of this calendar changed according to which emperor was in power and varied between regions. Solar solstices, equinoxes and the moon dictated the parameters of the calendar, while Yin and Yang also played a big role in the ruling of it.

It begins with the new moon at the end of January and ends when the full moon arrives at the end of February, culminating with the Festival of Lanterns, a time when red lanterns are hung outside homes and in the streets.

To prepare for the celebration, houses would be aired, dusted and scrubbed thoroughly to rid them of "huiqi" — translated as "inauspicious breaths," something that might have gathered and grown stagnant over the previous year. The date marks the switchover from winter to spring and gives observers the chance to get rid of all the bad luck to make room for the good.

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As an offering to the ancestors, and to the gods who would be visiting to make inspections, people offer up food and paper gifts. Children are given small red envelopes with coins inside; scrolls with lucky messages are posted on houses and front gates while firecrackers are set off in the streets in order to ward off evil spirits. The aim is to bring luck to the household or family for a long life.

Food offerings:

Fish, dumplings and noodles are intermittently consumed: Fish as a last dish to symbolize abundance (the Chinese word for it sounds similar to abundance), noodles to symbolize a long life, dumplings on the final day to represent the round full moon and the perfect family unit, tangerines which sound like the Chinese word for luck. Eight is a lucky number in China and therefore meals often consist of eight different courses.

The concept of the Spring Festival was brought in as a national holiday in 1996, allowing families to travel home and celebrate the new year together.

What does the Year of the Earth Dog mean?

Within the calendar, you'll also find the Chinese Zodiac: 12 signs that follow the path of the sun through the cosmos. The characteristics of each animal dictates the structure and belief system of the year. Although a lot of the religious traditions have been let go, people are still superstitious to the extent that they consider how the year of a particular animal may affect their personal fortune, or a child that is born during the year. It is widely believed if born during that year, you inherit in your personality the characteristics of that particular animal.

To add an extra layer of depth and meaning to these beliefs, each animal has a Chinese element associated with it. In Chinese Astrology, these are Wood, Wind, Fire, Earth and Metal. The Dog has the Earth element attached to it. For anyone born this year, they are quite lucky in the characteristics they'll be associated with:

"Dogs are known for their fierce loyalty, their endless supply of love, their positive attitude, and most importantly, their kindness. They display an eagerness toward adventure and warmth and their honest disposition makes them most people's favorite animal. Dogs fight for what they believe in and they'll always lend a helping hand to those who are in need.

On the other hand, they can also be stubborn and rigid in their beliefs. Easily irritated and upset when things don't go their way, they have the tendency to embrace sadness and pessimism in life all too often. They're also known for self-righteousness and judging others who can't measure up to their strength unfairly," Roya Backlund writes in "What The Year Of The Dog Means In The Chinese Zodiac Is Actually Pretty Lucky."

As the element of Earth associated with this year of the Dog, there'll be an added layer of discipline, patience and hard work sewn into their personality. Wealth isn't known to arrive early in life, but instead comes in their later years. The Earth Dog courts great admiration from others but also disdain from people who cross them. Overall, they're respected to staying true to who they are, with a pure spirit that helps them sail through the sometimes turbulent nature of life.

Here at Elevate, we'll be handing out lucky red envelopes to those who come through our doors over the next few weeks. We'll also be running a special for our existing acupuncture patients — check your inbox for more details of this on our most recent newsletter. We wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous new year!

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About the Author

Tamsin Edwards is the office and operations manager at Elevate Wellness Center (www.elevate-wellness.com). To schedule your appointment today, please call 530-541-9355 or visit us at 2034 Lake Tahoe Blvd.