Year of the Pig
By Ashley Yu
Translucent paper lanterns line the streets. Crimson and gold streamers lay across every storefront and every household. Red packets, filled with a year’s worth of allowance, are clutched in every child’s gleeful fist. A fake lion’s head, covered in fur and brightly bejeweled, already stands guard at the end of the road for the annual lion-dance, which never fails to shut down traffic. Firecrackers, though illegal in many places, echo throughout the streets as teenagers duck for cover behind cars and into alleyways. This year, images of adorable cartoon pigs holding little gold bars are plastered along the streets.
Starting February 5, millions of Chinese men and women celebrate the Lunar New Year. Also known as the Spring Festival, this celebration lasts for at least three days and nights. We usher in the Year of the Pig--the last animal of the zodiac who governs prosperity, compassion, and generosity.
As the legend goes, the Jade Emperor began a race amongst the creatures. The first twelve to arrive at his palace were to win their places in the calendar in chronological order. It is said that the Pig, recognizing his chubbier frame and sluggish pace, set out for the Emperor’s palace at midnight to make headway. But, being a pig, he was distracted by his hunger halfway through the race and snuck into a farmhouse to feed. Lulled by shade and a full belly, he fell asleep. It was only after the day was nearly over when he awoke with a start, realized his mistake, and raced towards the Emperor as fast as his little hooves could muster. The Emperor, impressed by the Pig’s surprising agility, welcomed him as the last member of the Zodiac. Caked with mud and with leftover food still lingering on his snout, the Pig collapsed, panting, by the Emperor’s feet and took a nap.
Though many would assume that those under the sign of the Pig are going to hit the jackpot this year, it is exactly the opposite. In fact, those under the same sign are insulting “Tai Sui”, a traditionally Taoist deity that governs our future, making them victims of utmost misfortune, even if you are the most devout believer to exist. That is not to say you have to cower under a rock, living off tree bark and insects for a whole year - Taoism is not that fatalistic.
To all those under the sign of the Pig, fear not. This happens every year to at least three other animal signs, with this year being Tigers, Snakes, and Monkeys. What you can do to “correct” your fortune is to visit a temple, where you can leave an offering of any sort for “Tai Sui”. The usual way is to light some incense, leave a bowl of rice or a shot of rice wine, and hit a drum to signal your presence and reverse your fortunes. Personally, I left a cigarette and a small mint.
It was all I had.
The Chinese New Year, like all new years in whichever culture, rejoices in a fresh start with family and friends. To all those who do celebrate the festival and to all those who don’t, Gong Hei Fat Choi: may wealth and prosperity come your way.