Chinese New Year - The Twelve Animals

My grandmother is actually a Chinoy - her father is a Chinese and her mother is a Filipino. Well, it's actually obvious because of her eyes and her distinct attitude. Usually, people would ask if she's a Chinese. I affirmatively answer them. Of all her kids, my mom got her physical qualities, but not the attitude.

My mom knows how to speak Mandarin because she had once worked in China. She also adopted their way of living, their food, and even their beliefs.

Every time my mom is with us, we celebrate Chinese New Year. She often yell Gong Xi Fa Cai, not Kong Hey Fat Choi. It's because the former is Mandarin, and the latter is Cantonese. She also explained to me their meaning. It means, to be prosperous in the coming year, something like that.

About the Chinese New year

Chinese New Year, or actually a Spring Festival, was celebrated in the first day of the Lunar calendar. Chinese, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Koreans, Japanese, Thai, Mongolian, some Filipinos, and other East and Southeast Asian countries celebrate the said feast for the same reason we celebrate the usual New Year of January first. The most days to when the Chinese new year falls are on January 21 to February 20. People celebrate it with fire works, dragon and tiger dances, red clothes, foods and red envelopes with money inside it (My personal favorite, but it's actually a lucky charm. You're not supposed to use it the whole year. Maybe only if you needed.). The only difference comparing it to the usual new year is the animal mascots dancing like they're playing. (I wonder why they often use the two animals instead of the other animals in the Chinese Zodiacs even if the year doesn't pertain to them. I'll figure it out.)

What do you think is the reason why red is the dominant color, and often has fire works in celebrating the Chinese New Year?

There was a legend to which this tradition came from.

There was a monster who often plague the villages in China. Every first day of the Lunar calendar, this monster forcefully get the foods of the people. So they decided to put a bunch of food outside the door in order for the monster to not disturb them. One day, there was a brave person who wished for the monster to stop. A god visited him in his dream revealing the secret of the monster. He was told to put a red paper with fireworks outside the door. As the monster arrived he was terrified by the red paper, and the noise the fire crackers made. So the villagers started using it every New Year, and the monster never came back.

Every Lunar year, one animal is designated to represent and as guide to what the year will be. Feng Shui experts also use them to know the weakness and strength of everyone and everything in every aspect.

There are twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac Sign, namely:
1. Rat
2. Ox/Cow
3. Tiger
4. Rabbit/Hare
5. Dragon
6. Snake
7. Horse
8. Goat/Sheep
9. Monkey
10. Rooster
11. Dog
12. Pig.

Each animal is distinct with it's own attitude, qualities, and abilities. If you are born in the year when that animal was designated, if you're a Chinese, you are often described and related to them. Especially, in searching your match (love life).

There's also a story (a legend) to why, of all animals in the face of the earth, they are chosen. Why not frog or fly or bird or worm.

The Origin

There are variations of this story, but I will only tell you the most common version of them all.

Once upon a time, Buddha was not in a state of good health. He knew he is about to leave the world. So he decided to call all the animals in the forest before he departs earth. When the animals heard this invitation, it became a race.

However, they need to pass through a river. The Cat and the Rat decided to talk to Ox to have a ride in his back. Ox, being a very kind and good-natured animal, he agreed to carry them both. Before they arrive on the shore, the Rat pushed the Cat on the water. The Ox still continued, not knowing what happened to the cat. As they arrived, the rat jumped on the shore and rushed to Buddha. Thus giving him the 1st place, then the Ox as 2nd.

Following closely was the tiger. He explained eagerly to Buddha how rough and hard it was to swim on the sweeping current of the river. And he was given the 3rd place.

Then the rabbit arrived. He told Buddha that he needed to jumped on the stones in order to cross the river. Midway, he almost lost the race as he fell on the water. Luckily, a floating log came and he grab on it. He stayed till the log was washed ashore. He was given the 4th place.

The Dragon finally arrived. Buddha was curious why the fastest animal who can fly made it on the 5th place. The dragon explained that he first needed to give rain on some people in other village and also to animals. Then, on his way to Buddha, he saw a hapless creature on the river grasping to breathe. So he gave the little puff a log to hold on to, and washed it on the shore. The rabbit realized it was the dragon who helped him, and they became friends.

Suddenly a galloping sound was heard. It was the horse who arrived. He should have made it on the 6th place but a snake appeared from his foot. The snake was coiling around the horse on his way to Buddha. Afraid, he fall back, and snake made it to the 6th place. The horse got the 7th place.

Not long after the Horse and the Snake arrived, the trio came - the Goat, Monkey and the Rooster. The three helped each other to cross the river. The rooster found a raft and took the two others with him. The monkey and the goat cleared the weeds and paddled on the water till they arrived on the shore. Because of their effort, Buddha gave them their place - Goat on the 8th place, Monkey on the 9th, and Rooster on the 10th place.

The Dog came too. He was supposed to be the best swimmer among the other animals. Buddha asked why he just got the 11th place. He explained that he enjoyed playing on the water that he almost forgot the race.

Then, an oink was heard after the dog arrived. The pig made it on the 12th place. He told Buddha that during the race, he felt hungry. So he stopped on a feast nearby, but fell asleep when he was full.

The twelve animals gave their farewell to Buddha as he departs.

Finally, the cat arrived, but Buddha was already gone. He felt very sad not giving his goodbye to Buddha. The Cat realized it was the rat's fault. He almost drowned on the water because of what the rat did. He chased the rat every where. That could be the reason why they hated each other.

The Variations

In other version of the story. It was the Jade Emperor who called for a meeting. Yet, in another legend, God the animals for a banquet. The rat fooled the cat that the feast will be the day after, so he slept that night. Upon knowing, the cat chased the rat.
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