Chinese New Year

By Courtney Van Era

The Chinese New Year starts a new cycle of the lunar calendar and a celebration of the ancient hope to ward off evil spirits and welcome blessings in Chinese culture. Bright red lanterns and wall hangings adorn doorways a welcoming gesture for blessings of success and material prosperity to enter.

As the inventors of gunpowder, the Chinese traditionally set off fireworks to frighten evil spirits from taking away material prosperity. Today, children continue this tradition by setting off firecrackers in the streets where you might also see a colorful, perhaps intimidating, lion dance or dragon lantern dance. The steady drum beats and snaking motions are meant to scare evil spirits away from businesses and shops which bring livelihood. Can you imagine this driving, colorful display in the streets of China?

Much ado about material prosperity may seem foreign and superficial to an American. But the older generations of Chinese can still remember a scarcity of food, making their perspective on material prosperity much more multi-faceted. By examining the underlying themes of the tradition, we may recognize that we all really want the same things. Chinese people want material prosperity so they will be secure and enjoy the opportunity to think of other things like spending time with those you love, pursuing your passions, contributing to your community and your world. Sound familiar? When the western New Year comes on January 1st, do we not reflect on how to engage in more of these things in the coming year? Maybe, east and west are not so different.

As the thrill of the Chinese New Year begins on January 28, why don’t we take a cue from China? According to eastern thought, some foods warm your body and others cool you down. Warm foods theoretically raise your inner body temperature and generally make you feel good, and that includes black tea and pu’erh tea.

Ward off the January cold by ending your meal with a full-bodied pu-er tea. Eastern thought alludes to health benefits of pu-er in its regulation of metabolism and cholesterol. I might start the day with a hearty Indian Darjeeling cuppa instead of daily coffee, a symbol of resolve to change things up in 2017. Or, take an afternoon break with a cup of indulgent, chocolatey Didi Daodao, a Yunnan black tea, and reflect on the year that has passed. Tea helps you feel good from the inside out and welcome in the New Year!

2017 is the year of the Fire Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac. How the Chinese Zodiac come to be? No one knows, but it has been cycling, guided by the lunar calendar, since the ancient Chinese dynasties. Years are split into a 12-year rotation of different animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Five elements are assigned to each year in a five-year cycle – earth, water, fire, air and ether – creating 60 different combinations and thus a Chinese Zodiac spanning 60 years. Babies born in the year of the Fire Rooster are said to become hard-working, confident, and blunt people. Sounds like they’ll be a major boost to the economy in 20 years!

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