Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Tet (New Year) — Year of the Ox/Water Buffalo Edition

After incense

Today is Lunar New Year,* celebrated across Asia and across Asians. We, too, note the day (as we have before), by eating our weight in pho and by giving Q & The Boy little red envelopes filled with lucky money. We also asked them to each put on their áo dài for some pictures, and we lit incense for Ba Ngoai and for others who won't see the year of the Ox (or the year of the water buffalo, according to the Vietnamese zodiac).

What's in store for this year? Well, according to the Great Wikipedia, the year of the water buffalo:
The BUFFALO symbolizes industriousness and patience. The year is one of slow, steady progress and patient strength; traits suitable for a scientist. He is the traditional symbol of spring and agriculture because of his association with the plow and his pleasure in wallowing in mud. People of that year are thought to possess the characteristics of that animal: steady, placid, but stubborn when crossed. The buffalo hours are from 1am-3am when buffalo are feeding and the day's farm work begins.
I suppose this symbol fits the tough times ahead that we'll need to plow through, but I'm not sure about this 1-3 a.m. business. Can't we make slow, steady progress during the day?

Most (if not all?) American holidays don't have much edge to them, particularly when compared with Eastern traditions. Our New Year provides a clean slate, a chance to rededicate oneself to messy closets and exercise. Lunar New Year has its negatives as well as positives, as indicated by the entry on the Year of the Ox:
Positive traits: Responsible, dependable, honest, caring, honorable, intelligent, artistic, industrious, practical.

Negative traits: Petty, inflexible, possessive, dogmatic, gullible, stubborn, critical, intolerant, materialistic.
In any event, chúc mừng năm mới, or Happy New Year! to you and yours. Eat too much, light a candle or incense in memory. Enjoy.

*Note: It is not simply "Chinese New Year." Sure, the Chinese celebrate New Year today, but they're not the only ones.


teahouse said...

Yes, I too prefer the term "Lunar New Year" - much more inclusive!

I think my grandmother is an ox. Since it's between 1 and 3 a.m. now as I'm leaving this comment, does that mean I'm reaping all of the buffalo hour benefits?

Nadine said...

Happy Lunar New Year! We went to a Lunar NY party in The Hague and Monkey LOVED the big dancing dragons & dogs. We spend some time watching them practice. That's hard work! Quite the gymnastic people in those costumes. And whenever I want to complain about my job I now think: at least I am not the behind of the dog :)