Thursday 22 January 2009

The Year of the Ox

Chinese New Year begins on 26 January and is the start of the Year of the Ox.

The outgoing year is the Year of the Rat, which back in February 2008 I said should be good for business. I suppose it was not a bad year for businesses in China, a country that seems to be on the up, but for much of the world 2008 was disastrous financially.

Let's hope the Year of the Ox is better. The Ox is an earth sign and those born under it tend to avoid risk in business. They put great store on financial stability and are likely to save rather than invest in risky endeavours. The stability of the Ox can also inspire confidence in others. It has tenacity and doesn't mind hard work. Those could all be useful characteristics for the year ahead.

The Chinese follow a lunar calendar. The first day of the Chinese year starts at sunset on the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice. It always falls between 21 January and 21 February.

Chinese New Year celebrations last for a fortnight. During that time, people often give children and friends red envelopes containing cash. These are called Hong Boa. The New Year celebrations end with a lantern festival. If you want to celebrate this, you might want to get some of the wonderful flying lanterns pictured above. You light a small candle beneath the lantern and then let it float into the sky like a miniature hot air balloon. At nightime each lantern glows brightly as it soars upwards. A pack costs about £4 through Amazon.

London's Chinatown traditionally holds a festival on the first Sunday after Chinese New Year's Day, which in 2009 falls on Sunday 1 February. The programme starts at noon in Trafalgar Square and goes on late into the evening. There will be lion dances through Chinatown, fireworks in Leicester Square and performances in Shaftsbury Avenue as well as stalls selling Chinese food and promoting Chinese events and activities.

Like western New Year's Eve celebrations, Chinese New Year is not a religious event and is enjoyed by everyone.

Chinese New Year (A World of Festivals)
Flying lantern
Five Spirits: The Alchemical Mystery at the Heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine

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