Happy New Year! If this greeting seems late, you’re probably living on Gregorian Time. You welcomed 2016 on January 1, and that was great. Ready for another new year celebration and you’re not keen on waiting ten more months? Tomorrow, you’ll have a chance to ring in 4713, the Year of the Monkey on the lunar calendar used by the Chinese government until the adoption of Gregorian Calendar by the Republic of China in 1912.
Chinese New Year 4713 starts on February 8 of this year. Unlike the Western holiday, which starts the night before and ends the next day, the traditional celebration of Chinese New Year goes for fifteen days, ending with the annual Lantern Festival.
4713 is the ninth year in a twelve-year cycle based on the symbols used in Chinese Astrology. Each year is given a name indicated by the animal symbol for that time period’s place in the cycle coupled with an element that runs on a concurrent five year cycle. Like Western astrology, the Chinese system has twelve signs. Unlike our monthly system of crabby clicks and Autumnal balances, each sign in Chinese Astrology lasts for the entire year. That means everyone born in 4713 will live under the auspices of the Monkey.
Annie Wu of China Highlights, a website devoted to Chinese culture, says this is a Fire Monkey year. Anyone born in 4713 will be “Ambitious and adventurous, but irritable.” Most online descriptions of those born under the sign of the monkey portray them as smart, quick-witted, and irritable, traits that are socially acceptable as long as no one is acting on the last one by screaming and throwing poo.
Are you a monkey person? Your best colors are blue, gold, and white, and you should avoid pinks and reds. Your lucky numbers are 1, 7, and 8. Your lucky directions are north, west, and northwest. For those of you who were wondering, North West was born in 2013, making her a Snake baby. According to Annie Wu’s chart, she will be a good friend to any Monkey people who come into her life.
Celebrations of Chinese New Year have grown from neighborhood chambers of commerce events in larger metropolitan areas with their own “Chinatowns,” to an integral part of the commercial and cultural landscapes around the world. Festivals in Europe, Australia, and North and South America are starting to combine traditional observances of the fifteen day celebration with events that illuminate Chinese culture for the uninitiated.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the largest celebration of Chinese New Year outside of Asia happens in London. This year, an exhibit at Chiswick House Gardens kicked off the festivities with a lantern festival on February 3 with an exhibit featuring a 217-foot-long dragon. Most of the festivities at heart of the sceptered isle are happening around Valentine’s day, but there were events happening in anticipation of Chinese New Year during the preceding week.
In Australia, everyone got ready for the arrival of Chinese New Year 4713 as the skies over Sydney lit up with fireworks. The Daily Mail reported the city was decorated with lanterns to set the stage for the celebration. Retailers in urban areas offered coins, fireworks, and paper lanterns to mark the event.
Meanwhile, in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a Toronto gala called “The Dragon Ball” to welcome the Year of the Monkey, per MacLeans. During the next two weeks, the CBC reports Canadians can enjoy parades, culinary fests, and demonstrations of traditional dance, theater, and music scheduled by Chinese-Canadian communities from Victoria, British Columbia, to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The Chinatown communities in the U.S. have hosted celebrations for decades. This year is no different, with parades planned in the larger communities in New York and San Francisco. Some events are now sponsored, with corporations paying for naming rights. The annual celebration in San Francisco is now branded as The Southwest Airline Chinese New Year Parade on the event’s official website.
Other institutions are using the Chinese New Year as a platform for teaching moments. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Bergen County Zoo in Paramus, New Jersey, is highlighting the plight of the endangered Lion Tamarind Monkey during the month of February. Across the continent, The Smithsonian’s Freer Sackler Museum of Asian Art will feature a family event where children can learn the art of woodblock printing.
So, whether you’re going to brave the crowds to see the beautiful dancers and dragons or snuggle up at home with your favorite takeout and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, have a happy and abundant Chinese New Year, or as they might say in Beijeng, “Gong xi fa cai!”
[Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images]