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The Chinese New Year:

The Chinese New Year fell this year on January 22nd. This day is the most important and biggest festival in China and is as important to the Chinese as Christmas is to Christians in the West. It is the first day of the lunar calendar and usually falls somewhere between January 30th and February 20th. This day heralds the beginning of spring and is therefore known as The Spring Festival. It is also a festival of reunion, and thus no matter how far away people are from their homes, they try their best to get back home to attend the Reunion Dinner.

The Chinese word for this day is Guo Nian. Guo means pass over and Nian means year. The origins of this festival can be traced back thousands of years through a continually evolving series of colorful legends and traditions.

According to one of the most famous legends, in ancient China there lived a monster named Year who had a horn on his head and was extremely ferocious. Year lived at the bottom of the sea all the year round and came ashore only on New Year’s Eve to devour cattle and kill people.

Gradually, says the legend, people learned that Year feared the color red, denoting flames and explosions. Therefore, each family began to stick antithetical couplets written on red paper on their door, blow up firecrackers, keep their houses brilliantly illuminated and stay up late into the night. The next day, early in the morning of the first day of the new lunar year, people would visit their relatives and friends to congratulate them on having successfully repelled Year.

These customs spread far and wide over the years and have been followed right down to the present day. The Spring Festival has, thus, become the most ceremonious traditional festival of the Chinese people.

According to Chinese tradition, there are 12 zodiac signs and the cycle begins with Rat and ends with Pig. 2004 is the Year of the Monkey.

Everything will be workable this year or at least, the agile Monkey will not give up before trying every angle. There will be success even in impossible ventures, and there will be inventions and improvisations galore. Politics, diplomacy, high finance and business will be engaged in one big poker game with everyone trying to outbluff each other. It will be rather an amusing and exciting time in which everyone will be given the opportunity to try his hand at the game.

This will also be an extremely progressive time. We will all steam ahead, and even if we do not apply ourselves to the utmost, we will be carried forward by the surging tide of the Monkey’s natural talent for learning and advancement. If there is a recession, the Monkey will quickly put an end to it. Business will skyrocket under his optimistic and shrewd influence.

The lucky imp that is the Monkey will also urge us to gamble, speculate and embark on risky but ingenious ventures. The Monkey gives no concessions and asks none in return. So it is definitely not a year for the faint-hearted or slow-witted. If you are quick on the draw, this year will yield huge dividends.

It is very interesting to note that America was born in the year of the Fire
Monkey, 1776. Perhaps this explains her phenomenal growth and fantastic achievements within such a short span of time.

It is said that the Monkey’s year will bring many new and unconventional ways of doing things. The motto for everybody this year should be: “Don’t take no for an answer!”

February 2, 2004
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