Bringing in The Year of The Horse

Lion Dance team members Zachery Ng, Angus Ng, Yu Sing Chan, Esmond Lee, Kafai Tse, Eddie Kwok and Caleb and Jadon Chan. Photo by Dooreen Ng.

Lion Dance team members Zachery Ng, Angus Ng, Yu Sing Chan, Esmond Lee, Kafai Tse, Eddie Kwok and Caleb and Jadon Chan. Photo by Dooreen Ng.

By Zeenat Kassam Mitha –

According to the Chinese Zodiac Calendar, 2014 is the year of the horse. Festivities for The Lunar New Year began January 31st and carried on throughout the month of February in Fort Bend community centers, churches, grocery stores and within many familiar organizations. The Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce was one of the first to pay tribute at the Chairman’s Gala with the traditional Lion Dance on the first day of merriments.

Lunar New Year celebrations began more than 4,000 years ago. Each year, the date varies from January 21st to February 19th, depending on the Chinese Zodiac Calendar, which is based on a lunar year and five 12-year sub-cycles.  Many scholars believe the Chinese Zodiac originated well before Buddha’s historical birth in India around 500 BC. As per the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, in China, the earliest portrayals of the twelve Zodiac animals show up in China in tomb ceiling paintings dated to 533 BC. Buddhism was introduced in China the first and second centuries AD, and it is said the 12 Zodiac animals became linked with Buddhism’s 12 Heavenly Generals as early as the Sui Dynasty (581 to 618).

It is also shared through history that Buddha called all of the animals on earth and 12 came. As a reward, Buddha gave each animal a year in the cycle and declared that everyone born in the year would have qualities of the animal in some way. The Chinese used 12 different animals to represent the first 12 years, and then, the cycle revolved. Each animal has its own characteristics. The order of the years in the Chinese Lunar Calendar is Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep/Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

“This year is the year of the horse, and the spirit of the horse has the character to constantly make unremitting efforts to improve,” said Jennifer Chang. “The horse is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able.”

People born in the year of the horse have been said to have ingenious communicating techniques. Some of the qualities which people affiliate with the horse are cheerful, perceptive, talented, earthy but stubborn, clever and kind.

“The Chinese New Year celebrations generally last for 15 days, but in Fort Bend, it’s more like a month,” said Terri Wang.

Just before the Lunar New Year, many families acknowledge and prepare for it. One of the things done is cleaning one’s home from top to bottom.  This is an opportunity for the dust and dirt to be swept out of the door taking with it any bad luck that has collected in the house. Good luck is supposed to arrive with the New Year, and people buy new clothes, shoes, have a haircut and repay their debts.

On the eve of the Lunar New Year, most houses are brightly lit and large family dinners are served. Children are usually allowed to stay up late to celebrate with adults, and around midnight, firecrackers are lit to drive away evil spirits.

The first day of the celebration is often spent visiting neighbors, family and friends. Oranges, tangerines and sweets are given as gifts. Oranges represent money and wealth, while tangerines are symbols of good luck. Adults give “red envelopes” to children and unmarried adults filled with money.

During the New Year gaieties, Chinatown is filled with an audience of viewers for many things, including Kung Fu type contests and lion dancers. The lion dancers carry the large head of a lion made from paper and glue. The dancers move to the beat of a giant drum. There are also gongs and cymbals being played, while the lion’s head swerves and bobs. Dancers will dance in front of businesses and homes. With the loud drums beating, the lion dancers scare away evil spirits and bring good luck to the shopkeepers. When the lion opens its mouth, people put money inside to be blessed with joy and good fortune.

The Asia Society Texas Center also celebrated The Tiger Ball on February 27th with many Fort Bend supporters and ended the festivities with a bang, noting there is much hope for the year of the horse!

To all my readers, I wish you a blessed Lunar New Year, filled with good luck, happiness, peace and prosperity in 2014!

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