My warmest good wishes for The Year of the Pig to all those who read my blog, may you have peace, prosperity and good health for the coming months.
Spring Festival 春季 Chun jie is a very special time in Chinese life. It is the time when everyone heads back to their family home to spend time with parents, grandparents and all the kith and kin. The days before the New Year sees the biggest migrations of humans anywhere in the world, chunyun (春运) as this massive movement of people is called is quite mind-boggling for most westerners as hundreds of millions descend on airports and railway stations or take to the roads. Loaded with gifts and carrying Hong Bao 红包 (decorative red envelopes containing money to give to family and friends), they cram into every square centimeter of the trains and ferries, and the queues at airports have to be seen to be believed.
China has two long public holiday times – Spring Festival aka New Year, and Golden Week which is at the beginning of October. They have 7 days leave each time (plus weekend time). Whilst Golden Week is a fixed time each year, Chinese New Year fluctuates according to the lunar calendar. This year the date is February 5th.
As I may have explained before, the Chinese zodiac is counted in a 12 year cycle. Each year is represented by an animal. In order they are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram (sheep/goat), Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.
The length of the whole cycle approximates the orbital period of Jupiter which is the largest planet in our solar system.
Why is the pig the last animal of the cycle? Well legend has it that when the Jade Emperor summoned the animals, the greedy little pig stopped en route for a snack – fell asleep and arrived late, almost missing being included!
Chinese people often ask very direct questions when they meet you for the first time. A few years ago I was with two young women who were about to visit Britain for the first time. “One of the things you mustn’t do” I said to them “is ask a woman her age.” it is considered very rude, and many women don’t want to divulge how old they are.” “Why?” I was asked. “Well, some of them have a fear of being thought of as old, and would rather you thought they were younger. Some may have been telling people – including employers – that they are five or ten years younger than they really are, for a variety of reasons.” “That is ridiculous” one of the girls said to me “all I have to do is ask and what zodiac year she is and I will know her age immediately, because if she was born a dog, she is not likely to say she is a snake!”
People born in the Year of the Pig are thought to be extremely fortunate – and my DH who was born in a golden Pig year (that’s a whole nother story) is considered particularly lucky. What do I know? I’m only a Tiger ….grrrr!
BTW – Chinese astrologers here have predicted that Prince Harry and his wife Megan who are having a Pig baby, will be having a son…who knows.