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The Year of the Ox

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Gung Hay Fat Choy! ?å??å??! G?ngx? f?cái! Happy New Year! It is the Year of the Ox, a year of determination, strength and fortitude.

As we leave the Year of the Rat and into The Year of the Ox, which begins on January 26th, 2009 and ends with the Year of the Tiger on February 14th, 2010. The Ox � is the second of the twelve year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac.

The World We Live In
A collective deep breath was released around the world at the start of this week, and ends with the celebration of the Chinese New Year on Sunday. The year of the Ox, has the same qualities of the animal, the Ox endures hardship without complaint and moves forward with strength and fortitude. President Obama's birthday, August 4, 1961 falls in the year of the Metal Ox, the element of metal accentuates the Ox's qualities with strength, determination, ambition and brings transformation because of the element's conductivity. You could say that we have the double fortune of both the year and President Obama's zodiac animal being both Ox. I would say it is fu ? which means good fortune. The Chinese use ? during the New Year, where it is written on red paper and pasted upside down on doors.*

The World Within
I grew up in Canada, so the celebrations there were more muted than the ones my parents experienced as children in China. In China, Chinese New Year is a week long celebration that combines their versions of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's into one giant flaming red firecracker surrounded by clanging gongs, dancing lion troupes, endless servings of duck, meat, fish, dumplings and lucky bao.

My family would begin the days before the Chinese New Year by cleaning out the house, this removes the bad fortune from the outgoing year and makes room for incoming year's good fortune. We would travel to Chinatown in the Dodge Dart, my sister and I packed into the back under blankets to brave the snow and crowds to buy our roasted duck, fresh fish, dried fruits, sweets and cakes.

My parents would make plans as to who to celebrate the year with, which relatives and friends to visit and pick who's house had the best guests to play mah jong with. Even now when I hear the clicking of mah jong tiles, I am brought back to the times I was curled up on the couch, clutching my red envelopes of lai see (lucky money), waiting patiently as my parents sipped tea and ate pumpkin seeds while stacking the tiles into neat rows. Occasionally I would be jarred awake by a loud "AIYAHH!" by an aunt who just routed the other players, later I would be lulled back to sleep as they whispered about lost relatives and fortunes that could be made in the new year. Memories of those childhood days have become just fleeting bits of haze that only appear into today's realities with the faintest push and pull.

The World Now
For me this Chinese New Year will be not like the others in the past because it truly is a New Year. It is fitting that this year is the Ox, a year where we all will take responsibility for our collective futures, when we all have to have the strength and determination to move forward together. I wish you Peace, joy, happiness and good fortune to you and to your loved ones.

About the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac Cycle
Dragon - the only mythological creature of the twelve

Make a Note
LGBTQ represented in the LA Chinese New Year Golden Dragon Parade
Arthur Dong (filmmaker) with Young, his legally married husband and their son Reed will be riding in the Los Angeles Chinese New Year Golden Dragon Parade as the only LGBTQ contingent in the parade and as supporters of marriage equality. They will be leading the Asian Pacific Islanders Equality-LA** contingent in a car adorned with a "Just Married" banner with all the wedding car trimmings.
Saturday, January 31 at 2pm.
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A Film to Enjoy
If you are staying home with the family on Chinese New Year's, I highly recommend The Shower
"Despite its name, Shower should really be called Bath. Written by Zhang and a team of young scriptwriters, the film revolves around a family-run bathhouse in Beijing. An aged father and his younger, mentally challenged son worked hard everyday to keep the bathhouse running for a motley group of regular customers. When his elder son, left years ago to seek fortunes in the southern city of Shenzhen, abruptly returned one day, it put the long-broken father-son ties under test again. Presented as a light-hearted comedy, Shower explores the value of family, friendship, and tradition." - wikipedia

* From the book Five-Fold Happiness by Vivian Sung: "In another version of the legend, one New Year's Eve during the Qing dynasty (1661-1911), the head housemaster of Prince Gong Qin's palace was preparing a few large fu characters to be pasted on the palace and storeroom doors. One of the servants accidentally pasted a fu character upside down. On seeing this, the prince was enraged and demanded that the offender be found and punished immediately. The housemaster, fearing the blame would ultimately fall on him, quickly offered an explanation. He had heard many people comment on the prince's good fortune, he said. The fu character turned upside down was an auspicious omen for his continued luck, because 'upside down', dao, is identical to the word 'arrived'. The prince was delighted, and instead of inflicting punishment he rewarded the housemaster and all the servants with fifty taels of silver each. That day, luck had truly arrived."

** API Equality-LA is a coalition of organizations and individuals working in the local Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community to build support for the right of same-sex couples to marry. From its founding in 2005, API Equality-LA has uniquely bridged the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community with the civil rights and other social justice communities, united by a common understanding of the parallels between past anti-miscegenation and current marriage equality struggles.

Image: Traditional Chinese papercut

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