February has come and with it the celebration of the Chinese New Year. This year’s cycle is the Year of the Dog. The 15-day celebrations can range from parades, gift exchange, meals, and fireworks. Chinese New Year is a large global festival and celebration. It is one of the few celebrations that can cause mass migration as many travel to be with family. It signifies the new year. Multiple countries honor Chinese New Year as an official holiday while many more include Chinese New Year Festivals into their year’s celebrations. Chinese New Year is a very old festival.
One of the mythologies surrounding the Chinese New Year deals with a mythical creature that would take children. One year an old man decided to stand up to the Nian. The old man put up red paper and lit off fireworks. When the villagers came out of hiding they realized that the Nian was afraid of the color red and loud noises. From that day on, the Nian no longer terrorized the villagers. Throughout the centuries, the festival and celebration has evolved with family, luck, and new beginnings. Traditional you gather with your family to share a meal, the clean the house to sweep away the bad luck and invite good luck in for the upcoming year.
I love that imagery of sweeping out the old, getting rid of that which has mired the previous year, a way to physically remind us that each new year, each new day can bring new and positive things. That the bleakness, sorrow, and hurt of the yesteryear/day/week/month will ease. It seems especially relevant due to the constant bleakness that seems to follow all of the days in the last two years. There is also something very practical about having multiple days to celebrate the new year. It takes a while to take stock and discern what has come before, what you want for the current time, and what is hoped for the future. Taking stock of things is not just the resolutions of hitting the gym more, stop biting those nails, or taking more risks. It can also be taking stock of where one is in life, how things are functioning around you. These things are intrinsically linked to the human condition.
Chinese New Year helped to remind me about why have we celebrated new years for centuries across the globe? It also made me think common specific elements truly are. Whether you are celebrating the Chinese New Year, American New Year, Hindu New Year, or Rosh Hashanah there seems to be focus on renewal, getting rid of the bad, righting wrongs, prepping for the future.
It is so highly relevant as each night as I go to bed I take stock of the fallout from the day and each morning I awaken to see the damage that has occurred while I slept. In the last week, since I attended a Buddhist celebration of the Chinese New Year, each morning I have gone through every room and ‘swept’ out the bad energy and luck. I have also found that with this very slight change in activities I have found myself more and more encouraged despite the darkness that seems to blow in each day.
The Year of the dog brings up dependability, honesty, good nature, companionship. It can be a year that can be built upon loyalty. It is projected that the Year of the Dog can be highly successful both monetarily and in all forms of endeavors. The celebration of the Year of the Dog can be a reminder that each day has potential.
迎春接福 Yíngchúnjiēfú – “Greet the New Year and encounter happiness”
福壽雙全 Fúshòushuāngquán – “May your happiness and longevity be complete”
Anjeanette LeBoeuf is a Ph.D Candidate in Women Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University. She is the Queer Advocate for the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion. She is currently a Lecturer of Asian Religions at Whittier College. She is a Wabash Teaching Fellow for Claremont McKenna College. Anjeanette also writes the for activist blog, Engaged Gaze. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. She has become focused on exploring the representations of women in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. She is an avid supporter of both soccer and hockey. She is also a television and movie buff which probably takes way too much of her time, but she enjoys every minute of it. Anjeanette has had a love affair with books from a very young age and always finds time in her demanding academic career to crack open a new book.