Happy New Year: The Year of the Ox

The lunar New Year is celebrated in many countries in Asia. Not only do the Chinese communities around the world celebrate this, but the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Mongolians and others consider this festivity one of the most important celebrations of the year. year-of-the-ox

The lunar New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. Similar to adding an extra day on leap year, the lunar calendar inserts an extra month once every few years to synchronize with the solar calendar. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the lunar New Year falls on a different date each year. 

The lunar calendar revolves around a twelve-animal zodiac cycle: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Some cultures assign different animals in the zodiac cycles. For instance, the Vietnamese replaces the ox, rabbit and sheep with the water buffalo, cat and goat respectively.

Alongside the animal zodiac cycle, there is a 10-year cycle of heavenly stems. Each of the 10 heavenly stems is associated with one of the five elements of Chinese astrology, namely: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. The elements are rotated every two years, while a yin and yang association alternates every year. The elements are thus distinguished: Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire, etc. These produce a combined cycle that repeats every 60 years. This year celebration-the Year of the Ox-is on January 26. 

The New Year celebration is a time for renewal, family gatherings, eating sumptuous foods and paying respect to your ancestors and elders. Also, what you do and how you act during the period can shape the outlook of the rest of the year. Many superstitions associated with the celebration exist. For example, the entire house should be cleaned before New Year’s Day, but further cleaning should not be done on New Year’s Day. As the cleaning resumes after New Year’s Day, the sweeping motion should go inwards for fear that good fortune will be swept away. Kids look forward to the New Year as the elders will give them new clothes and “red envelops” stuffed with money.

The Seattle Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA) organizes this year’s celebration, packed with activities such as Lion and Dragon dances or Japanese taiko drumming. The Vietnamese Lunar New Year Tet Festival 2009 will take place on January 24 and 25 at the Seattle Center. This two-day event, called “Youth and Dreams,” includes children’s programs, live performances, community vendor booths, a festival exhibit, 2009 Miss Vietnam of Washington pageant and much more. For families wishing to explore more about the Chinese New Year, try some of these books:

 Nonfiction for Children and Families (394.2)chinsese-new-year
 Celebrate Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto
Chinese New Year by Dianne M. MacMillan
Chinese New Year by Ann Heinrichs
Celebrate Chinese New Year by Elaine A. Kule
Chinese New Year Crafts by Karen E. Bledsoe
The Chinese New Year: Fact and Folklore by William C. Hu
Good Luck Life: The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture by Rosemary Gong
Chinese New Year by Judith Jango-Cohen

Children’s Picture Books:
Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin
The Day the Dragon Danced by Kay Haugaard
D Is for Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine
Long-Long’s New Year: A Story about the Chinese Spring Festival by Catherine Gower

Children’s Chapter Book:
 Happy New Year, Julie by Megan McDonald (an American Girl chapter book)
The Chinese New Year: Fact and Folklore by William C. Hu

DVD: Chinese New Year by Rhonda Fabian                        ~ Khue

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