7 February 2008 is the Chinese New Year and the start of the Year of the Rat. It is supposed to be good for business endeavours. Considering how awful last year was, with the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the run on Northern Rock and pundits talking about recession, I would say businesses need all the good fortune they can get.
Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival, is the main annual Chinese festival and it is not a religious event. The Chinese calendar has a cycle of twelve years named after animals, much like the signs of the zodiac. The New Year always falls at a new moon.
In China, people clean their houses in the run-up to the New Year, to sweep out bad luck. New Year's Eve marks the start of the celebration and families usually have a special meal. On New Year's Day, people give presents of money to their children. They are handed out in red packets, called Hong Bao. It is a day of goodwill and visiting friends and neighbours. The end of the New Year is marked by the Festival of Lanterns with singing, dancing and lantern shows.
If you are in London, you can watch the lighting up of Chinese lanterns at Oxford Circus tonight, 6 February.
This Sunday, 10 February, central London will be holding a Chinese festival, starting with a parade from the Strand to Shaftesbury Avenue at 11am. In Trafalgar Square from noon until 6pm there will dragon and lion dances and performances of traditional and contemporary Chinese arts. There will also be stalls, shops and other entertainment throughout the day in Chinatown and, after dark, you can watch fireworks in Leicester Square.
I am looking forward to the Year of the Rat. Being born in a Year of the Rat myself, I am hoping for a year of opportunities and good prospects. However, I'm not going to tell you exactly which Year of the Rat I was born in - a witch does not reveal her age :)
For further information about Chinese New Year follow these links:
To find out more about the Year of the Rat, visit : www.paranormality.com/rat.shtml
For details of events in London, visit www.london.gov.uk/mayor/chinese_ny/index.jsp