Monday, January 26, 2009

Gong Xi Fa Cai, 4707!

“People born in the Year of the Ox are stable, strong, dutiful, reliable, tenacious, practical, industrious, determined, honest, loyal, sincere, persevering, down to earth, and tolerant.”

We Oxen are entering our new 12-year cycle of the lunar year today. Based on the list of our characteristics, we don’t come across as the life of the party, do we. I know that I was born serious-—I was a serious child and have struggled my whole life to experience some moments of light-heartedness. Well, the ruling lunar power over me explains it. (Thank God the artistic streak of being a Libra tempers the rigors of the Ox for me.)

I’m in good company. Napoleon, Bach, Dvorak, Charlie Chaplin, Richard Gere, Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Princess Di, and yes, Barack Obama are all Oxen.

The Year of the Ox begins Jan. 26, 2009, and ends Feb. 13, 2010. The Ox is the second of 12 animals of the Chinese lunar calendar. According to a legend, a race across a river determined their order in the cycle. The rat crossed by riding on the back of the ox, jumping ahead at the last minute to win the race, and so he leads the pack: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar.

The lunar new year is observed primarily by people of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Mongolian heritage around the world. It’s a 15-day celebration that starts with cleaning out the home to sweep away all the bad and evil spirits from the last year before welcoming in the new.

The U.S. Postal Service recognizes the celebration with a stamp. Kam Mark, a Chinese American artist, designed this year’s and put a Lion Dance forefront with the Ox image in the corner.

“I chose the lion dance because it is an important tradition that dates to the Han Dynasty in welcoming the new year. As a child growing up, the lion dance was always and still is the most anticipated event for me. I always have a preference for the green and black lion created in the style of the Fut San region of southern China.” Kam Mark.

In Chinese tradition, your lunar year is not necessarily a good time for you. You have to be very careful in your year-—prosperity and happiness are more likely to come to you during the year of your compatible animals. For me, that’s Rat, Rooster, Snake, and Rabbit.

And that’s why it was so very special that when I was 26 I was in Tawian and Hong Kong for New Year’s for the Year of the Rabbit with my BFF. She was teaching English as a second language in Taipei, and I was working on Wall Street, where my year-end bonus gave me the means to visit her. After 3 days in the capital, we took a motorcycle trip around the entire country. That story to come during the Oxen new year festivities.