Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Spring Festival Cometh

If I tell you I am a Libra, ho hum might be your response.

But I tell you I am a snake in the grass, then your ears would perk up.

One thing we've done each year in Bozeman, when the time comes, we preside over a Chinese new year presentation, craft project and celebration in our youngest child's elementary school class. Last year in Mrs. Crawford's class she said our presentation was the best of the year. This year we are looking forward to repeating in Mrs. Schaefer's class. We are motivated and planning -- spurred on by the welcome positive feedback. 

In China the new year's celebration is more commonly referred to as the spring festival. We were in Beijing in the year 2000 during the week leading up to it. It was a glorious time of sharing hothouse flowers, employers lavishing workers with sumptuous repasts and family members travelling from far and wide to their ancestral homes for reunion. In the People's Republic of China it is a 7-day holiday. 

This will be the year of the sheep or ram -- specifically the ram respected by the others. Sheep is one of the twelves signs of the Chinese zodiac, the others being monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat, oxen, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake and horse. The signs rotate on a twelve year and sixty year cycles, each showing up five different ways during a sixty year cycle.

We involve the kids by having them identify which sign or signs they were born under. We circulate our our twelve volume set of the Chinese Horoscopes Library so they can read about the sign they were born under and others that might interest them. We give them background on the history and practice of the new year celebration. Then we have the entire class engage in a relevant craft. Finally, the celebration begins. We pass out little red envelopes filled with tokens and chocolate coins in lieu of gold specie and then simulate the classic Chinese firecracker celebration by covering the floor with bubble wrap. The kids to jump up and down to pop the bubbles -- they love it!

I was born in the year of the snake -- specifically snake in the grass, which in keeping with the sixty year cycle was repeated last year. Last night I opened up the Chinese Horoscope Library volume for the horoscope reading on snake in the grass. The passage begins thus:
You are full of energy and are very clever, but that does not always lead to an easy life. It is beneficial for you to pay considerable attention to your relationship with your elders, for you are linked to ancestor worship -- keeping the dead happy.
My oh my! In the last year or two, I have extensively researched and written several dozen extended blog posts on long since dead ancestors. How could Kwok Man-Ho have known that when he wrote this horoscope in 1994? The Chinese are very wise.

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