Thursday, 19 February 2015

Lunar New Year

Happy New Year

The Year of the Goat
Today - Thursday 19th February, 2015 - is the first day of the Lunar New Year Festival for the year of the Wooden  Ram or Goat

I wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperours year.
Those of you who do not espouse Budhism or Taoism may need a few pointers regarding the 15 days of celebration which you are about to undertake.
First it may be helpful (or just confusing) to understand why the lunar new year is starting so late this year. Like the Gregorian calendar which we use in the west, it is not exact. Every four years we insert a day into February annd every century we ommit it. The lunar/solar calendar , as it is more correctly called, has a similar adjustment to make because the solar and lunar months are not equal in length. In 19 years there are 228 solar months and 235 lunar ones. So every 19 years there has to be an an adjustment of 7 months. This is done by inserting a leap month every three years. 2009 was on of those leap years with an extra month five.
To confuse you further - the new year actually started on February 19 but the festival by tradition starts on the first New Moon of the first month and runs for 15 days.
Day 1 - Feb 19
It is unlucky for women to use knives today so no food preparation. Meals must therefore consist of leftovers.
Married women should not visit their family as this will make them poorer.
Wealth and luck of the household will diminish if sweeping or rubbish disposal takes place.
Washing your hair will wash away your luck
Don't eat congee (rice porridge) for breakfast as this is paupers' fare andyou may tempt fate.
Washing clothes today will offend the God of Water whose birthday it is.
Eating meat before noon will offend the gods who visit as many of them are vegetarian.
Fire crackers and making a noise by other means are recommended for warding off the less savoury deities.
To wish others well try Gong xi fa chai which is Congratulations and make a fortune in Mandarin or Kung hey fat choy which is the Cantonese version and more common in UK.
Day 2 - Feb 20

Married women should visit their parents today and husbands must accompany them.
It is customary to take a red envelope containing new money for the parents and other relations who will assemble for lunch.
Day 3 - Feb 21
Red Dog Day (might be calle Hair of the Dog Day by some!)
After two days of eating, drinking and playing games today it is a good day to rest .
This is also the Mice's Wedding Day so you should retire to bed early . Turning out the light early also slown down their breeding according to old Chinese farmers.
Taking out the rubbins is thought to remove some of the bad spirits which lurk around this time.
Day 4 - Feb 22
Welcome the God of the Stove back with fireworks and an animal sacrifice in the kitchen.
As heaven is a long way off the God of the Stove usually arrives in the afternoon.
Day 5 - Feb 23
God of Wealth Day - so back to work and expect the Lion Dancers to pay you a visit.
Setting off fire crackers will attract customers.
Day 6 - Feb 24
If you live in Taiwan you will know this as Good Pig Day and will go to see the big pig competition. In 2007 the winner weighed 2000lb and was sold for 1 million Taiwan dollars (£20,000). It is also customary to have the cess pit cleared today. (Not really relevant if you have Elsan)
Day 7 - Feb 25
According to Chinese scriptures, the goddess with the snake body (size zero?) created humans on day seven from yellow mud. On the previous days she had created Chickens (dday 1) dogs (2) sheep (3) pigs (4) cows (5) and horses (6).
She also gave humans sex education on that day so that they might procreate.
Celebrate this in your own way
Day 8 - Feb 26
Back to work day for those who did not go back on day five
Day 9 - Feb 27
The Jade Emporer who rules all 33 heavans celebrates his birthday today and we must join in by preparing three bundles of long noodles, three cups of green tea, five differnt kinds of fruit (so that's whre five-a-day originated) and six diffeernt dry vegetables. For his guardian, who is not vegetarian, we must prepare five animal sacrifices and turtle cakes.
Remember not to offend the Jade Emporer by putting this food on his vegetarian table.
Day 10 - Feb 28
Eating Day - or left-overs day one
Day 11 - Mar 1
Rest Day - or left-overs day two
Day 12 - Mar 2
Diahorrea Day !!!
Day 13 - Mar 3
Some celebrate the death of General Kuan Yu but you may wish to recover from day 12
Day 14 - Mar 4 Prepare for the Lantern Festival which concludes the Lunar New Year Fecstival. Check that the electric lanterns work
Day 15 - Mar 5
Lantern Festival - in China this is called Yuan-Xiao after the soup which is eaten.
The story behind this festival -
Once upon a time in a land very far from here a beautiful heavenly bird flew down to a village and was killed. The God of Heaven was very displeased and decided to burn the village on day 15 of the first lunar month. However, a bright spark in the village persuaded all the villagers to make candle lanterns and to put them in all their windows. They also paraded in the street with lanterns and set off fireworks. The God of Heaven looked down and thought that the village was already burning and left it alone.
This is what your Lantern Festival should look like

Traditionally there is a quiz night held in the temple (not the pub)

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