Dateline: January 29, 4704

Happy Chinese New Year!

Red is THE color for New Years. Homes and businesses throughout the country get decked out with festive lanterns.

By the Chinese calendar this is the beginning of the year 4704. Talk about Auld Lang Syne! With one billion people on the invite list - nearly one-fourth of the world’s population – China's typical New Year's celebrations make Y2K hoopla look puny. So bang the gong! Beat the drums! Set off the fireworks! The sun has set on The Year of the Rooster and it’s time to ponder Who Let the Dogs Out.

We’re going to the Dogs

According to the Chinese Zodiac 2006 is the Year of the Bow-wow. I personally do not understand or buy into the glorification of a four-footed slobbering, snarling, homework eating, rug defacing beast. That’s right, I don’t like dogs. There – I said it. It doesn’t make me cold-hearted or unfeeling, as some of you have implied. Sue me – I can’t stand canines. And a whole year of mushy dog crap is not something I relish. Eeooo, that sounded icky. According to the Chinese Calendar, Rabbits such as myself are suppose to get along with Dogs. Sounds like Chinese torture to me. Dogs and Rabbits are natural enemies, right?

Speaking of dogs, we assume a don't ask attitude toward food in China. We love Peking Duck but I wish I had never learned how it is prepared. Notice I said prepared, not cooked... don't ask

You Dirty Rat!

Next year will see the end of the 12 year calendar cycle with The Year of the Pig. Unlike western horoscope signs, there is a definite pecking order to the Chinese zodiac. Legend has it the 12 animals argued over who should be first in the line up. The gods ordained the winner would be decided by a race across a river. When the race began, unbeknownst to the dumb Ox (humble apologies to my yolked breathren born 1949, 1961 or 1973), the Rat jumped on his head. Just as the Ox was reaching the opposite shore in first place, the Rat jumped off and beat him. Kinda interesting to learn that a Rat is a rat even in Asian culture (my deepest regrets to my Rat buddies born 1948, 1960, 1972 or 1984). The 12 animals of the zodiac are always arranged in the order they placed in the race. The lazy Pig came in last (my personal swine friends born in 1947, 1959, 1971 or 1983 of course being the exceptions).

I love the whole idea of the Chinese hot-pot. It's very social and at least you get to see what goes into it.

I haven’t seen you for Two Tigers!

The Chinese Zodiac is not just fortune-telling fluff. It has several practical applications. Even if you can’t read or write you can still keep track of the years using the Chinese calendar. Saying something happened “three Dragons ago” is easier than working the date out mathematically. Many seniors have trouble remembering how old they are. I can relate! The years are going by so fast - it seems like it was just Goat last week. It’s much easier to remember that you will graduate next Snake or that you were married the Dragon before last than remember some meaningless number. I like that idea. By the way - Rabbits Rule!!

Nothing says party-hardy like standing on your head spinning plates. Scene from the legendary Chinese Acrobat performances

Here are some interesting Chinese New Year Traditions I found:

Start the year fresh and clean by scrubbing your house from top to bottom before the New Year dawns. Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day for fear that good fortune will also be swept away. That sounds like something a husband would make up. “Oh honey I would love to sweep but..”

Out with the old - on the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, open every door and window in your house to allow the old year (and hundred’s of dollars of heat) to go out.

All debts should be paid by this time. Nothing should be lent on this day, as anyone who does so will be lending all the year. I hope my kids and the current administration read that one.

Refrain from using foul language and bad or unlucky words on New Year’s Day. Negative terms and the word "four" (Ssu), which sounds like the word for death, are not to be uttered. Sshut, that’s gonna be a hard one for me to remember to keep.

If you cry on New Year's day, you will cry all through the year. Therefore, children are tolerated and are not spanked, even though they mischievously misbehave on purpose and you want to kill them.

Red clothing (but please god not those red hats) is preferred during this festive occasion, particularly if it is your year. Red is considered a bright, happy color, sure to bring the wearer a sunny and bright future.

So put on your red dress mama!

Don't wait until Pig's fly to leave a comment. You dog, you.