Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Happy New Year! Some of you may think that I am way late in giving you this greeting, but I’m really only about a day or so late. The reason: The New Year I am referring to is the Chinese New Year which is determined not solely by the Earth’s revolution around the sun, but instead has a base dependent on the phases of the moon.

The Chinese New Year is celebrated at the beginning of the second lunar month after the winter solstice. The winter solstice is usually on Dec. 21 or Dec. 22 (Dec. 21 in 2018). A lunar month is the time it takes for the moon to revolve around the earth which is slightly less than 30 days, so the Chinese New Year is after Jan. 20 and before Feb. 20.

This year, 2019, the first new moon (i.e. the side facing the earth was in total darkness) came on Jan. 6 in the Chinese time zone and the second lunar month is on Feb. 5, thus yesterday was the beginning of the Chinese New Year. Recall that on the night of January 20 there was a total lunar eclipse. The full moon on Jan. 20 also marked the halfway point of the last month of the old Chinese New Year.

On Feb. 19 we will have a Super Full Snow Moon.: Full because the moon surface facing the earth will be totally lit by the sun; Super because it is the time when the moon is closest to the earth and looks bigger than usual; Snow because of the obvious (a time when there is usually lots of snow on the ground, i.e. for the northern hemisphere.)

Because last Saturday, Feb. 2, was Ground Hog’s Day, I wondered when the Chinese New Year will next fall on Ground Hog’s Day. Unless I manage to get close to setting a record as the oldest person alive, I will not likely be around to experience that happening. The next occurrence will be in 2049.


Some Chinese choose to celebrate their birthdays at the time of the New Year and further, historically, some counted the day they were born as year one thus a sort of accounting for the time they were in the womb. So the new year had become of even greater importance.

A tradition at New Year’s is the giving of a gift (usually money) in a red envelope – usually newly minted money is preferred or gold coins – sometimes in the modern era possibly some of the chocolate candy inside a gold embossed paper.

The signs of the zodiac (Sheng Xiao) are animals assigned in a repeated 12 year cycle. In the past it seemed that every Chinese restaurant had place mats with the animal signs. The order beginning with 2019 is pig, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog. Being born in 1971, you would be born in the year of the pig as would those born in 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019, i.e. every 12 years as the year of the pig.

In addition to the animal designations, there are also element designations: wood, fire, earth, gold, water. If you take the year in which you were born and divide by 5 and determine the remainder of 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4, then if you have a remainder of 0 you would be assigned the element of wood: If 1, then element of fire, and so on. Thus being born in 1971 and dividing by 5 you get a remainder of 1 so you would be the year of the fire pig. On the other hand if born in 2019 you would get a remainder of 4 and thus you would be the year of the gold pig.

Combining the 12 animal sign cycle with the 5 element cycle produces a 60 year cycle so those born in 1971 and those born in 1911 would both be from the year of the fire pig.

By now you may be saying to yourself that this all sounds like the horoscope business. Indeed it is. I happen to have been born in the year of the ox. Other famous people born in the year of the ox include: Vincent VanGogh, Adolf Hitler, Walt Disney, Margaret Thatcher, and Barack Obama. We oxen have lucky numbers 1 and 4; lucky colors of white, yellow, and green.

The ox is generally diligent, dependable, with an honest nature, strongly patriotic, etc. But if you are an ox there are also some downsides as an ox is often short-sighted, selfish, narrow-minded, and impersonal, but practical. Oh, Fiddlesticks!

When I came across some of my fellow oxen and when I go to that last part of my horoscope, I decided I certainly did not believe in horoscopes.


Regardless of my horoscope and not believing I am superstitious, some days do seem to be good and some bad. I had one of those bad luck days on Saturday. Along about 10 a.m. I pulled into the grocery parking lot. It was not a busy time and I did not try to get the very closest space to the door in order to park I did pull into a slot between the two yellow lines – yes, they were visible on Saturday as the snow had pretty much melted in the parking lot. I had left the space next to me empty as the car parked on the other side of that space had gotten so close to the yellow line, that there was not room to safely stay between the lines if I used it.

I proceeded to do my shopping and came back to my car only to find that an extended-cab, red pickup truck had squeezed into that spot just to my left. I put my groceries in the trunk and then tried to get into the driver’s side door. I found I could only open it about two inches. Now what would you do?

What I did was raise my blood pressure! Ultimately I cooled down as I had left a book in the front seat so just got in the passenger side and read and steamed.

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!