New Year, New Sign



At the stroke of midnight on Feb. 16, more than 1 billion people will celebrate the start of a new year — the lunar new year, that is, following the Chinese lunar calendar.

According to that calendar, the Chinese New Year will usher in the Year of the Dog — a very good year for anyone born under that sign, like actor Alec Baldwin, royals Prince William and Kate Middleton, and our president, Donald Trump.

Most traditional holidays in China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea and other countries with significant Chinese populations follow the mixed lunar-solar calendar, rather than the Western solar calendar. The mixed calendar dates back to the 14th century, when — according to legend — Emperor Shun ascended the throne on New Year’s Day 12 and paid homage to heaven and earth by creating a way to track time. He chose twelve animals that race to heaven in an alternating cycle — the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, pig and dog.

The official holiday celebration lasts 15 days and includes family gatherings, elaborate meals of fish, rice, cured meats, dumplings and mooncakes; festive parades of red and green lion and dragon dancers; and firecrackers, fireworks, tom toms and cymbals to chase away evil spirits.

The traditional red and gold colors of the Chinese New Year come from a legend about a giant monster named “Nian” that terrorized ancient villagers on New Year’s Eve. The villagers finally chased the beast away with red lanterns and decorations, as well as bamboo sticks that made loud cracking noises when lit — the precursor to today’s fireworks.

On New Year’s Eve, families gather to share “nianyefan,” a lavish feast that can last through midnight. Religious ceremonies also are held to worship Buddhist and Taoist deities and family ancestors, complete with offerings of food and incense. At midnight, fireworks are lit to welcome the new year and pacify evil spirits.

On New Year’s Day, people get up early and set off more firecrackers and eat “zhuanggao,” a sticky rice cake that is meant to symbolize progress in the coming year. Chinese parents give red and gold envelopes filled with money to children, being careful to only give even-numbered sums — a sign of good luck and protection.

Chinese New Year2


What Sign is Your Soulmate?

Occupation, assets and household registration, or “hukou” (which can limit where a person is allowed to live) aren’t the be-all and end-all for matchmaking parents in China. Many families say zodiac compatibility is more important. In the 12-year-long Chinese zodiac cycle, each year represents a different animal sign, and each sign, astrologists say, has its own character attributes that make those born under each sign best suited for specific careers and spouses.

In fact, Chinese astrologists say they can determine the dos and don'ts for each zodiac sign, down to how you will meet your soulmate, how your relationship might end, and why it's best to avoid certain signs like the zodiac plague.

“A lot of Chinese practice fortunetelling. Chinese astrologists look at the exact year and hour you were born to map out your life and best love prospects,” said Kayo Chang, a librarian at Savannah College of Art and Design. Chang, 30, is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants and current Hilton Head Island residents. She said her mother and grandmother believe the Chinese zodiac predicts marriage success. A potential beau for a woman born in the Year of the Rabbit may be rejected, for example, if he was born in the Year of the Chicken – not a good match, according to the Chinese zodiac.

Those born in the Year of the Dog — the new year that begins Feb. 16 — are best matched with those born in the Year of the Rabbit. And to make sure a true love connection, they should definitely avoid those born in the years of the Dragon, Sheep and Rooster.