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Gung Hay Fat Choi, Happy New Year and the start of the Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year's Celebration, Lunar Year of the Horse
Chinese New Year's Celebration, Lunar Year of the Horse
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Growing up in San Francisco, provides children and grandchildren with some exceptionally wonderful expereinces. The diversity of the population, and the many cultural, religious, and ethnic traditions that are celebrated here, make San Francisco one of the most interesting places to live. Today local schools are closed in honor of the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

This New Year is begins the Year of the Snake. The past year, the Year of the Snake, had us shedding the old established, worn out, and difficult elements of our lives. As in many traditional turning points, we are invited to symbolically let go of the old in order to welcom the new, more life-affirming into our lives.

The Year of the Wood Horse, shifts the nature of the energy around and within us. For the last two years we have been swimming in the depths of the water signs, digging deeper and deeper into whatever was needed to enable us to release the old and be receptive to the new. The festival for the Lunar New Year lasts for 15 days. The first 3-4 days kick off the season, and for the last week or so, children in local schools have been preparing for this time, celebrating and learning about the Dragon Dance and the customs associated with preparing for the new year. We have cleaned our homes, and today begin the year by doing those things that attract into our lives, greater joy, abundance and energy. Before today, we cleaned our homes, and today we do those activities that reflect what we hope to attract and achieve this coming year. The Year of the Wood Horse is a year of great action and energy. Where we may have been learning to say 'no thank' you in some areas of our lives, we now have created space to begin saying 'yes' to new opportunities and relationships.

As in many cultures when a new year is celebrated, it is time to rid ourselves of objects that do not reflect well or represent our best side. Time to get some new clothes, and take care of our health, hygiene, personal appearance, and time to spruce up our homes, offices, and businesses. Families gather to share a festive meal, and to eat a variety of traditional foods, including noodles. Noodles represent long life, and are a traditional food eaten as the year begins.

The Chinese Calendar, Shengxiaio, includes 12 animals that appear in the same order year after year-Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. Snake In my Granddaughter's school here in San Francisco, all the children, teachers, and staff know what sign they are born under. My Granddaughter, Daughter and I are all Dogs, as are many of the children in my Granddaughter's class. We all know that Dogs get along very well with Horses and with Tigers. Dogs are born 4 years after the Year of the Horse. For the next three years, we will celebrate the Year of the Horse, the Year of the Goat, the Year of the Monkey, and the Year of the Rooster--then the Year of the Dog. Horse people also get along very well with Tiger people who were born 4 years before the Year of the Horse.

Those born in a particular year, tend to have some similar characteristics. Those born in the Year of the Horse are thought to be energetic, active, and animated. They enjoy being with people, and learn to be independent early. Baby horses, foals, learn to walk within minutes after birth. Horse people have positive attitudes about life, are excellent communicators, and are known for their quick sense of humor. Like any system that tries to categorize personality, we may not feel like the character of our year, but that may be because we all also have an 'inner animal' that influences our personality. That inner animal is determined by the month of your birth--that's an article for another day.

To attract good fortune and abundance, the colors red and gold are worn to celebrate the new year. Among those born in the Year of the Horse include: President Franklin Roosevelt, Ruler of the Monguls, Gheghis Khan, singer, Aretha Franklin, astronaut and first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, and scientist, Louis Pasteur.

The Cantonese Chinese greeting for New Year's is Gung Hay Fat Choi. The Mandarin greeting is Xin Nian Kuai Le (meaing Happy New Year) or Gong xi fa cai (meaning Congratulations. May you be prosperous.).

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