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Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year at Paddy's Markets, SydneyThe year of 2013 is quickly unfolding and as I looked forward to decide what topic to ponder on I was confronted by three equally deserving occasions. I could wax eloquent about the Chinese New Year which starts on 10 February. I could extol the virtues of Ash Wednesday on 13 February and affirm we are planning a lunchtime service for that day. Or I could take the commercial line and command you to prepare for Valentine’s Day on 14 February. Obviously I can’t do all three in one go, so since it comes first, I have some helpful hints on Chinese New Year.

Did you know that the Chinese follow a Lunar calendar and thus the date of new year is different on our Gregorian calendar and will fall somewhere between 21 January and 20 February. Thus according to Wikipedia, Chinese New Year occurs on the second new moon after the winter solstice, and in traditional Chinese culture it marks the beginning of spring.

This coming year is designated the year of the snake, which is one of a 12 year cycle of animals, with last year being the year of the dragon. Although there are regional variations ethnic Chinese around the world see this as the most important festival and opportunity for family reunions. They spare no expense to buy presents, clean and redecorate their houses, purchase special food and clothes. The colour red seems to take over everything (eg gifts of money in red envelopes, red lanterns etc)  and with it the popular themes of “good fortune”, “happiness”, “wealth” and “longevity”, with some firecrackers thrown in to scare away evil spirits.

“So what?” I hear you say! It seems to me that we all want the same things no matter what out ethnic or cultural background. We want good things to happen to us and not bad things. We want to be happy, not sad. We want to earn a good wage and be able to provide well for our families. We want to live long, fruitful lives. So where do we go for these things? What do we have to do to earn such blessings? It is a lot more complicated than just getting tattooed with the appropriate Chinese character and hope that it works – though these are definitely getting more popular!

Instead of just saying “Kung Hei Fat Choi” (which I thought meant “Happy New Year”, but is more like “congratulations and be prosperous”) take this opportunity to clean up your life, get together with your family, wear red and be thankful for all that we have and take for granted. As my desk calendar reminded me this week:

“Getting what you go after is success;

But liking it while you are getting it is happiness.”

(Bertha Damon)

Chaplain Ian S Whitley

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