The Chinese New Year 2012 begins on January 23. This is the year of the Dragon, so believers are looking forward to a year of excitement, unpredictability, exhilaration, and intensity.
Chinese New Year Tradition and Meaning
Chinese (or Lunar) New Year is the Spring Festival and the most important Chinese holiday. It has been celebrated since the Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1100 B.C.).
Like many other cultures, the Chinese symbolically sweep away the troubles of the past year and prepare for a new year of prosperity. Housecleaning, clothing choices, special menus, and celebrations are all calculated to bring happiness, wealth and opportunity to the celebrants, China.com notes.
According to history.com, Chinese New Year tradition arose out of superstition that the wild beast Nien arrived at each year's end to maul and kill villagers. The firecrackers and lights that dominate the celebrations originated as tools for scaring away this monster.
Identifying the Arrival of Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year begins when the new moon is visible in the sky. That's why the date changes each year. The 15-day celebration ends when the full moon rises.
Chinese Zodiac Explained
Things Asian describes the Chinese zodiac as consisting of repeating, 12-year cycles with animal signs representing each year. Beginning with the Rat, the years following are known as the year of the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar. Each animal's characteristics are believed to influence the events of the year, ChineseNewYear2012 notes.
According to Chinese legend, the choice of zodiac animals stemmed from a race hosted by an ancient emperor. The tale describes how each animal's personal attributes determined its place crossing the finish line.
Traditional Asian families will consult the zodiac in making important life decisions, believing the sign under which a person is born influences his personal relationships and fortune.
Here's a brief description of each sign, courtesy of Taiwanese Secrets.
* Rat: Charming, hard-working, timid, reserved and honest.
* Ox: Calm, trustworthy, ill-tempered, eloquent, stubborn, and distant.
* Tiger: Courageous, powerful, dreamers, sensitive, and anti-authoritarian.
* Rabbit: Talented, tasteful, honest, lucky, tender with family, distant with strangers, sometimes moody and arrogant.
* Dragon: Energetic, robust, stubborn, honest, trustworthy, and courageous, yet fears rejection.
* Snake: Serious, introverted, wise, egotistical, charitable, and keep their own counsel.
* Horse: Optimistic, intuitive, sociable, attractive, intelligent, free, and good at managing money.
* Sheep: Honest, generous, sympathetic, artistic, compassionate, and distractible.
* Monkey: Inventive, intelligent, narcissistic, and good at attracting money.
* Rooster: Sociable, brave, overly-ambitious, eccentric, nonconformist and proud.
* Dog: Giving, compassionate, loyal, honest, just, demanding, and trustworthy.
* Boar: Fun, honest, thoughtful, loyal, outspoken, extroverted, lazy, financially wasteful.