Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Year of the Tiger

Sunday, February 14, marks the start of the new Chinese lunar new year, and is celebrated by Chinese communities around the globe. This year is the Year of the Tiger, the third of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac.

Chinese New Year is a major holiday in China, much like Christmas is to the Western world. People, by the hundreds of millions, go home to visit families. Generally, the government adds thousands of train cars and buses to the system to try to accommodate everyone.

I lived in Beijing during two Spring Festival celebrations, as the holiday is known there. My first celebration was for the Year of the Pig, the last zodiac animal. I really enjoyed seeing the creative art work celebrating this animal. I took dozens of pig photos during the holiday, and continued taking pig pix throughout the year. What a collection I have!

The second year was for the Year of the Ox. I spent two hours on a bus to get to the temple fair at Da Guan Yuan is southwest Beijing. (I lived in northeast Beijing.) I enjoyed the colorful street parade and the activities at the park, and pigged out on a variety of snacks. One activity which was mind-boggling to watch were young Chinese men on very high stilts somersaulting backwards from a platform to hit the ground standing. Some were a little wobbly in their stilt-landings, but it wasn't an activity I cared to duplicate. In the picture ahove, stick ponies rest after the big psarade.

Chinese families celebrate New Year's Eve by making jiaozi (or dumplings) to eat the next day. One tradition that I especially liked was that women weren't supposed to sweep the kitchen floor on New Year's Day lest it upset the kitchen gods.

The 12 animals in the zodiac are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, each celebrated in that order. Chinese legend says that if you were born in, say the Year of the Tiger, then you will have good luck during that year. I hope it doesn't mean you have to put up with 11 years of bad luck just to have one good one!

If China, is in your travel plans, please visit my website or email me with any questions.

If you're going to the Beijing area, check out my books on places to see that are off the beaten tourist path.

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