Happy Chinese Niu year

25Jan09

Tonight there are celebrations for the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Ox. An ox is called ‘niu’ in Chinese, so you can wish everyone a happy niu-year! Don’t believe it when you read somewhere the Chinese are celebrating the year 4753 or whatever figure you might be reading – traditionally, the Chinese really don’t count that way.

Chinese count the years of the reign of the emperor. So your year might be something like “12th year of emperor Kangxi (K’ang-hsi) of the Qing (Ch’ing) dynasty”. As an emperor dies, the counting starts all over again. And if a new dynasty arrives, the dynasty name changes too. Of course your sense of history has to be in a firm place to figure out what year they are talking about! However, after 1911 this way of keeping calenders was discontinued when they adopted the system of the Western calendar. What remains in China is the most important festival of the year, the Chinese new year, which is also called ‘Spring Festival’. Everyone has to travel back to celebrate it with their family.

In China everyone knows which animal of the Chinese zodiac is in turn: the ox. The coming year will be a year of hard-working, sturdy perseverance. What if it is ‘your’ year, if you were born in the same sign ? Your year will be special, but not always in a good sense, you have to be careful. Some Chinese wear a red ribbon around their waist for a full year. Only if you are 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 or 84 (..count up) this year!

Happy Niu Year to everyone, have some Chinese dumplings (in Dutch), and let’s make it a good one!



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