Happy Chinese New Year!
This lunar year is the year of the Dragon. The dragon is the only mystical creature out of the twelve animals on the Chinese Zodiac. It does not make much sense at all. There is a children’s story about how the gods held a race in pre-historic times to determine the order, but how a mouse beat a horse (and were there no cheetahs back then?) is also quite a mystery to me. I am certain that the ancient Chinese had some other wiser reason for this arrangement. They always do.
What is even more peculiar is that the ancient Chinese did not come up with the concept of dragons based on dinosaurs at all. Rather, a Chinese dragon is the combinations of 9 different things: antlers of a deer, ears of a cow, body of a snake, belly of a clam shell, scales of a fish, claws of an eagle, paws of a tiger, AND eyes of a demon. Despite that last part, dragons remain a positive symbol for prosperity and good luck in Chinese culture. A Chinese dragon is also basically all-mighty: besides being able to fly and breathe fire like its Western counterpart, a Chinese one also can swim gracefully. It dominates all three environments of sky, land, and water.
Tonight I took my brother and my father out to Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner at Tommy Toy’s downtown. Like every Chinese restaurant would, the venue was decked out in red paper decorations for the holidays, most of them of four-character idioms of happy wishes. My brother made an interesting observation- although Chinese New Year is like Christmas in the sense that it’s a time to be with those close to you, eat a lot of good food together, and people give out presents in the form of money in red envelopes, the good wishes of CNY are so much more…practical and worldly.
I’ve translated and paraphrased some below. Keep in mind that these sayings have existed for thousands of years, and no, I swear I’m not making these up:
- Congratulations and become rich! (the well known phrase “Kung hei fat choi”)
- Live long and thrive!
- May all your family members be safe every time they go outside!
- Continuously improve and get promoted!
- Hope you have lots of offspring!
- All your kids will get into good schools!
- Happy nation and peaceful citizens!
…and my friends wonder sometimes why I’m so practical. What can I say? It’s in my lineage.
In ancient Chinese belief, people are supposed to have the best luck in the year of their birth zodiac sign, and that big things will happen in their life during this time. True story: In the middle of our conversation about the paper decorations at dinner tonight, a display with the word “fortune” FELL ON TOP OF ME. If that’s not a sign of good luck, I don’t know what is.
You guess right: Yep, I am a Dragon. And I did write this whole post just to say that people born in the Year of the Dragon are awesome. Fellow dragons, this is so our year! I’m excited.