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January 6, 2004 > Chinese Year of the Green Monkey Begins January 22nd

Chinese Year of the Green Monkey Begins January 22nd

Lion Dance, Martial Arts Demonstration and Special Dinner at China Chili January 24th

This year, the Chinese community will welcome the new Lunar Year, 4701, on January 22nd. The Chinese calendar dates back centuries before the Julian calendar and measures time based on astronomical observations of the movement of the Sun, Moon and stars. Celebrations are based on Emperor Han Wu Di's almanac. It uses the first day of the first month of the Lunar Year as the start of Chinese New Year. Each year of a twelve year cycle is symbolized by an animal. Legend has it that the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from earth. Only twelve came to bid him farewell and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived.

The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on their personality, saying: "This is the animal that hides in your heart." The monkey, for instance, symbolizes energy, activity, mischief and loyalty. The English translation of the Lunar zodiac symbols are: Rat; Ox; Tiger; Hare; Dragon; Snake; Horse; Sheep; Monkey; Rooster; Dog; Pig. Korean and Japanese Zodiac symbols are the same but Vietnamese calendars replace the rabbit symbol with cat.

Years and their Chinese symbols are listed below. Find Yours!

Rat '24, '36, '48, '60, '72, '84, '96 Imaginative, Charming, Generous
Ox '25, '37, '49, '61, '73, '85, '97 Confident, Conservative, Methodical
Tiger '26, '38, '50, '62, '74, '86, '98 Sensitive, Emotional, Loving
Rabbit '27, '39, '51, '63, '75, '87, '99 Affectionate, Sentimental, Pleasant
Dragon '28, '40, '52, '64, '76, '88, '00 Enthusiastic, Intelligent, Gifted
Snake '29, '41, '53, '65, '77, '89, '01 Charming, Romantic, Intuitive
Horse '30, '42, '54, '66, '78, '90, '02 Hard-working, Independent, Cunning
Sheep '31, '43, '55, '67, '79, '91, '03 Elegant, Artistic, Pessimistic
Monkey '32, '44, '56, '68, '80, '92, '04 Intelligent, Clever, Loyal
Rooster '33, '45, '57, '69, '81, '93, '05 Hard-worker, Shrewd, Definite
Dog '34, '46, '58, '70, '82, '94, '06 Honest, Faithful, Worrier
Pig '35, '47, '59, '71, '83, '95, '07 Sincere, Tolerant, Honest

Please note the lunar calendar New Year determines which zodiac sign you fall under. If you were born in early January you should follow the zodiac symbol for the previous year. If you are born in late January or early February it gets tricky.

The Chinese calendar uses both the Lunar cycle and the Solar year. The Lunar New Year begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice. This means that when the sun has reached its lowest point of the year (Winter Solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere (the opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere) usually December 21 or 22, the second new moon can arrive anywhere from 30 to 59 days later.

Legend tells of a village in China, thousands of years ago, that was ravaged by an evil monster one winter's eve. The following year the monster returned and again ravaged the village. Before it could happen a third time, the villagers devised a plan to scare the monster away. Red banners were hung everywhere; the color red has long been believed to protect against evil. Firecrackers, drums and gongs were used to create loud noises to scare the beast away. The plan worked and the celebration lasted several days during which people visited with each other, exchanged gifts, danced and ate tasty comestibles.

Celebrations today are both literal and symbolic. Spring cleaning is started about a month prior to the New Year and must be completed before the celebrations begin.

Typically red packets called lai see with money tucked inside are given out as a symbol of good luck. The amount is usually an even number as odd numbers are regarded as unlucky.

Lions are considered to be good omens. The lion dance is believed to repel demons. Each lion has two dancers, one to maneuver the head, the other the back.

During the New Year celebrations, people are not mean and do not fight with each other, as this would bring a bad, unlucky year.

Everyone celebrates their birthday this day as well, turning one year older.

Foods during the holiday hold symbolism as well. Typically red meat is not served and one is careful not to serve or eat from a chipped or cracked plate. Fish is eaten to ensure long life and good fortune. Red dates bring the hope for prosperity, melon seeds for proliferation and lotus seeds mean the family will prosper through time. Oranges and tangerines symbolize wealth and good fortune. Nian gao, the New Year's Cake is always served. It is believed that the higher the cake rises the better the year will be. When company stops by, a "prosperity tray" is served. The tray has eight sides (another symbol of prosperity) and is filled with goodies like red dates, melon seeds, cookies and New Year Cakes.

A popular dinner celebration of the New Year, including a Lion Dance and demonstrations of martial arts is held each year at China Chili Restaurant in Fremont. This year, there will be two seatings - 5 p.m. & 7 p.m. - for this special dinner on Saturday, January 24th. John and Jocelyn Liu invite everyone to enjoy the festivities at China Chili. Yvonne, who has overseen the dining room for many years, will be on hand too. Dinner, including entertainment, is $20.95 per person. Don't forget to bring a token payment for the Lions who will wind their way through the dining room to the accompaniment of Chinese drummers. Everyone in the family will enjoy the show! Seating is limited and Chinese New Year is a popular event, so make your reservations early. Call (510) 791-1688.

Gung Hey Fat Choy
"Wishing You Prosperity and Wealth"

China Chili Restaurant
Chinese New Year Celebration
Saturday, January 24, 2004
5 p.m. & 7 p.m.
39116 State Street, Fremont
(510) 791-1688 or (510) 791-1779

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