PHUKET: As billions of Chinese around the world bid farewell to the year of the dragon tonight, they prepare to welcome tomorrow's 'invisible moon', which marks the official start of a new year – the year of the snake.
That's right, the Chinese New Year officially begins tomorrow, February 10.
The most important festival in the Chinese calendar, Chinese New Year is celebrated from the first day of the first Chinese month (a new moon) until the 15th day of that lunar cycle (a full moon), which is concluded with the traditional lantern festival.
The Chinese calendar is based on the movements of the moon, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar, which follows the cycle of the sun.
Therefore, the actual date of the festival varies every year. Last year, for example, Chinese New Year began on Valentine's Day, February 14.
Also known in China as the Spring Festival, this is also a time of renewal, when houses, including family altars, are cleansed or rearranged, distant relatives meet up for a festive meal and deceased ancestors are remembered by way of offering food, spirit and flowers.
The actual celebration varies from country to country but anything between three to eight days is the normal affair. The first three days are the most important. This is when families gather together, prepare delicious meals using the best ingredients they can afford. The feast is first offered to the ancestors and the spirit of the land.
The family then enjoys a meal together. It is customary to wear new clothes – red being a lucky color – and to be on one’s best behavior (which means no swearing).
After the feast, a profusion of firecrackers are lit to announce to the ancestors and deities that the mortals’ duties have been done and that the gods must keep their side of the bargain and ensure that all are blessed with good luck and prosperity in the year to come.Year of the Snake
The Chinese horoscope is divided into 12 cycles, represented by animals, which in turn symbolize different traits and characteristics. Following on from the Dragon sign in 2012, this is the year of the snake.
In addition to the 12 animals, each year is also represented by one of four elements. This year, the element will be water.
Thus, you will often hear people refer to this year as the year of the “water snake” (not to be confused with a serpent that habituates in the water).
According to the Chinese people, snakes are associated with food and abundance, thus some astrologers have already predicted 2013 to be an excellent year for commerce and industry.
This is, they say, when music and literature will experience a renaissance, and romance and courtship will be aplenty.
If you are born in the year of the Water Snake, you are intuitive, introspective and a refined individual. You are graceful and exciting but there’s also a dark side to your character as you tend to give in to jealousy and vindictiveness when wronged.