Year of the dragon
The Lunar New Year begins Saturday, Feb. 10, ushering in the Year of the Dragon. The lunar calendar, used in both Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, is divided into 12 segments, with each assigned an animal sign. The Chinese New Year celebration starts with the new moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later.
According to myths, the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac were selected through a race. This race is meant to create a time measurement for the people. There could only be 12 winners, and in order to win, the animals had to cross a rapid current river and reach the finish line on the shore.
There are many variations of this story. Some say that the Jade Emperor called a race of animals on his birthday to create the Chinese zodiac. Others say that it was the Buddha who did. The stories are essentially the same, excluding some minor details.
In Chinese astrology, each zodiac sign is associated with a fixed, or perpetual, element. Every year is associated with an element as well. Depending on what year you were born, you’ll get a unique combination of a sign and an element.
Visit family: The oldest and most senior family members will be visited in order to strengthen family kinship. Also, guests are welcomed with sweets.
Birthday of dog: After being offered sacrifices, the god of wealth leaves for heaven. People will see the deity off, wishing for a prosperous year and eating wonton resembling the shape of an ingot.
Birthday of pig: People pay respects to the dead. Some believe evil spirits roam the Earth on this day.
Birthday of sheep: The fourth day is a continuation of the third day.
Birthday of the god of wealth: Respect is paid to the god of wealth. All businesses reopen.
Birthday of horse: Marks a time to visit temples, relatives and friends.
Birthday of men: Is the birthday of ordinary or common men and celebrated with certain foods.
Completion day: People have another family reunion dinner and a midnight prayer to the Jade Emperor.
Birthday of Jade Emperor: Celebrate the birthday of emperor, believed to be ruler of all heavens and Earth.
10th to 12th days
Feasting: More feasting with friends and family.
Slow down: Vegetarian foods are eaten to cleanse the digestive systems of all the rich foods.
Lantern decoration day: Preparations are made for the Lantern Festival.
Lantern Festival Day: This marks the full moon after the spring festival and the new year. Another reunion dinner is held with lanterns and oranges being a large part of the celebrations.
Sources: nationsonline, webexhibits, astrohoroscopes, travelchinaguide, VietHoroscope.com, creativeartsguild.org, chinahighlights.com
Let’s talk dragons
The flag of Wales, above features a dragon. It is one of three nations to have a dragon on its flag. The other two are Bhutan and Malta.
A dragon is a mythical creature that is believed to spit fire and have the ability to fly. Dragons are also storied to be powerful and to symbolize strength. In battle shields and flags, they have historically been used to intimidate opponents. Chinese dragons are often depicted among clouds or water, and represent wisdom and prosperity more than a battle threat.
There are no creatures on Earth that can breathe fire but there are huge lizards known as dragons. The most fierce is the Komodo dragon that can weigh 300 pounds and be 10 feet long. If that’s not scary enough they are one of the few lizards to have a venomous bite, eat meat, have large claws and can reach speeds over 13 mph. Its large curved and serrated teeth are its deadliest weapon, and if it bites an animal its venom will likely kill it in a few days and it will track it down with its great sense of smell.
They are found in the wild on a few Indonesian islands and have a vulnerable conservation status.
There are several other creatures with dragon in their name such as bearded dragons, dragonfish and dragonflies. Flying dragons, or Draco lizards, don’t actually fly with wings; they are lizards that leap and glide up to 160 feet from a tree. There are 40 species and they are about 3 inches long.
Dragons are popular in books, movies and recent TV shows such as “Game of Thrones.” Lithub.com, an online source of all things about literature, held a contest in 2022 to rank the 50 best fictional dragons. Here’s the top 10:
10. The Jabberwock, “Through the Looking Glass”
10. Tiamat, Dungeons & Dragons
9. Toothless, “How to Train your Dragon”
8. Mushu, “Mulan”
7. Yinglong, Chu C, “The Songs of Chu”
6. Zhulong, “The Classic of Mountains and Seas”
5. The Dragon, “Beowulf”
4. Vrtra, “Rig Veda”
3. Falkor, “The Never-Ending Story”
2. Haku, “Spirited Away”
1. Smaug, “The Hobbit”
1. Kalessin, “The Farthest Shore”
Dancing dragons can vary in size and length, starting from a few yards up to around 100 yards in length. Dragons bring luck to people. The longer the creature is, the more luck it will bring. Especially if one is touched by a dragon, and even better if touched by a Golden Dragon, good fortune and prosperity will be coming up in the year to come.
Chinese dragons are a luck bringer; they are venerated in the dragon dance – also called “Dragon Lantern Dance” – as is a traditional performance of the Han people. Dragon Dances are performed in almost all special festivals.
The Chinese dragons are associated with clouds and life giving rain; the original rain divinity provides for heavenly beneficence and fertility.
Types of dragons
Celestial dragon guarding the heavenly dwellings of the gods
Dragon of Hidden Treasure, guarding buried treasures, both natural and man-made
Earth dragon, controlling the waterways
Spirit dragon, controlling rain and winds