As you already probably know, there are 12 Chinese zodiac animals used to represent years. The first day of the New Year falls on the new moon between January 21 and February 20. 16th February 2018 marked the beginning of the New Chinese Year of the Dog.
The beginning of the Chinese New Year is rather unclear, but it is generally thought that this originated during the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC – 1122 BC). However, some believe that it started from as early as Emperor Yao and Shun (~2300 BC).
Legend has it that he beginning of the Chinese New Year started with a mythical beast called the Nian (‘Nian’ is translated as Year in ‘English’) . The beast of Nian would eat villagers, especially children. One year, the villagers decided to hide from the beast. However, a strange old man said that he’s going to stay the night and get revenge on Nian. The villagers thought he was mad!!! The old man put red papers up and set off firecrackers. When the villagers returned the next day, they were amazed to see that their village was in tact and that nothing was destroyed. They assumed that the old man was a deity who came to save them and realised that Nian was afraid of the colour red and loud noises. When the New Year was about to come, the villagers would wear red clothes, hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors, and burst firecrackers to frighten Nian away. Nian never returned. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk and thereafter retreated to a nearby mountain.
Why are there 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs? – The Great Race
In the Chinese Animal Zodiac (Shengxiao = literally translated as ‘born resembling’), there are 12 signs, in a repeating cycle of 12 years, represented by 12 animals i.e. (in order of winners of the Great Race) Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
In one version of the myth, the Jade Emperor, the ruler of all gods within Chinese mythology, hosted the race to determine which animal would make it into the zodiac. The Cat and the Rat were best of friends. Together, the two of them created a plan to ride the Ox across the river together, and jointly win the race. But, as the Cat and the Rat rode atop the Ox, the Rat jolted abruptly forward and won the race. The sudden force sent the Cat flying off the Ox and into the river. The cat never made it to the top 12. That is why, even to this day the Cat holds a grudge against the rat and hunts the rat every time it sees it. This is the same reason why today, cats hate water.
We celebrated this auspicious day at work with stunning performances including the traditional dragon dance, cultural music, beautiful dances, games and fortune telling (apparently, whatever I wish for this year will come true!!! – Time to play the lottery). Here are some colourful photos and videos from the event.