No, I haven’t lost the plot, it is Chinese New Year, the longest and most important of China’s traditional holidays. Today, in Chinese communities across the world, pigs, ducks, chickens and sweet delicacies are being sacrificed to a celebration of family, thanksgiving and reunion. And so, as we say goodbye to the Dragon and herald in the arrival of the Snake, what does the coming year hold in store?
Well, if past years are anything to go by, it’s not looking too auspicious. Let’s face it, the snake doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to dishing out the feel good factor and in Chinese mythology they are often associated with monsters and bad news. The previous two cycles of the snake occurred in 1989 and 2001, which most people out there will probably recall also saw the crushing of the Chinese pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square and the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York. There has been talk already of political upheaval, tsunamis and flooding. Before you get too downhearted though, there is a positive slant to this. For the naturally superstitious out there, apparently monkeys are the answer. Yes, monkeys it seems can handle snakes, so embracing our simian cousins can help to ward off the natural destructive properties of the serpent. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend hanging a live chimpanzee around your neck, or carrying a small macaque in your back pocket (especially if you’re driving), but maybe an unobtrusive pendant secreted somewhere about your person may be of help.
I have to say, before I realised what a bad press the snake got, I had always considered myself unfortunate in my placement in the Chinese zodiac. I was born in the ‘Year of the Rat’, which I had always considered something of a bum deal. However, it would seem that my initial repugnance was somewhat misplaced. The Rat it seems is in fact something of a player in the Chinese calendar. Legend has it that when the animals were summoned to heaven by the Jade Emperor, part of the journey entailed crossing a fast flowing river. The Rat and the Cat therefore decided to hitch a ride on the back of the Ox. Halfway across however the Rat, in a display of inspired cunning, pitched the Cat into the river and then proceeded to jump ahead of the Ox to reach the emperor first, thereby cementing his place at the head of the animals. In other news, the Rat is also considered one of the most industrious, loyal and loving of the zodiac characters and can always be relied upon for some juicy gossip. We are also (apparently) expert organisers and make great writers, racing car drivers and spies – I shit you not! Suddenly the stigma of being a rodent doesn’t seem so bad, especially when I learned that I also shared this trait with the likes of Peter the Great, George Washington, William Shakespeare and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart…All I need to do now is make sure that I stay away from Rabbits, Horses and Roosters.
And so, as the Chinese say…迎春接福…“Greet the New Year and encounter happiness”.
Happy New Year everyone and remember…keep those monkeys close!