Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I'm excited, but after last year....

Last year was supposed to be all nice and happy, with good money for me and all my friends. Supposed to be LUCKY for me. Liars. Most of my friends had a tough time too-death, health issues, oh, you name it. Did it pan out? This year-the year that is supposed to end a 12 year YUCK cycle for me (and why the hell didn't they just come out and SAY that 12 years ago-why'd they let me stay hopeful?) I think THAT was mean!
HONG KONG -- Caution will be the watchword for the Year of the Rat, the new lunar year that begins Thursday, as Chinese fortune tellers predict financial and political rumblings, tsunamis and epidemics in the year ahead. The reason, they say, is that water and earth -- two of the five elements Chinese mystics believe are at the root of all things -- are in conflict in 2008.
"Earth usually conquers water, but it is too weak to control the rat, which symbolizes the most powerful water," said Raymond Lo, a Hong Kong master of feng shui, the ancient Chinese practice of trying to achieve health, harmony and prosperity by the arrangement of dates and numbers, building design and the placement of objects.

Millions of ethnic Chinese across Asia have eagerly anticipated the weeklong celebrations that kickoff the lunar new on Thursday. From Beijing to Bangkok, and Sydney to Seoul, streets are festooned with red and gold, and planes and trains packed with people heading home for the biggest family reunion of the year.

Year of the Rat predictions seem as though they're already coming true in China, where freakishly frigid temperatures in the last three weeks have claimed at least 60 lives. The worst snowstorms in five decades have crippled transportation, leaving millions stranded during the busiest travel week of the year, similar to the Christmas holidays in the West. Tang Ming, 45, a furniture factory worker in the southern city of Guangzhou, was standing in line at the train station for a fourth day last Friday, desperate to get on a train and spend the holiday with family in northern Hubei province. "It's unthinkable not to be with your family," said Tang. "I'm going to do whatever I can to go home."

Like the Chinese, the Vietnamese consider Tet, as it's called there, the most important holiday in the calendar year. Urbanites head to hometowns to visit family members or go to temples. Streets are filled with kumquat and peach blossom trees, which signify prosperity and goodwill. Markets overflow with dried fruit, colored candy and flowers.

As in many Asian countries, the Vietnamese have turned their thoughts to the animal being honored this year.

Tran Quang Thieu, 54, director of a rat extermination company on the outskirts of Hanoi, was reveling in the Vietnamese belief that the rodent population multiplies during a lunar rat year.
"This holiday will mark the start of a booming year for us, so this is a special Tet," Thieu said. "From a spiritual standpoint, I hope that our rat-killing techniques become more popular this year, so that everyone can protect their crops, factories and businesses from being ruined by rats."

Nguyen Tien Phat, who sells freshly butchered rat at a village market in the northern town of Bac Ninh, shrugs off any notion that more rat will be eaten this year than any other. They've been eating rats there for centuries, boiled and flavored with ginger, lemon and fresh herbs.
"Those who like it will eat it, and those who don't, won't," said Phat, who sells rat for US$3 a kilo.

Rats are sneered at in the West as filthy, despite the hit Hollywood animation "Ratatouille," which showed a more refined side to the gutter-dwelling rodent. They are revered in the East, however, for their anthropomorphic characteristics of wit, charm and ability to amass great wealth.

People born in the Year of the Rat include authors William Shakespeare and Truman Capote, actors Marlon Brando and Cameron Diaz, Britain's Prince Charles, climate change champion Al Gore, and former US President George H.W. Bush.

The rat is the first of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac's 12-year cycle and symbolizes new beginnings. Legend has it that the rat beat the other 11 animals in a race, not because it was any faster, but because of its cunning. After lying to the tiger about the day of the race, the rat rode most of the way on the ox before leaping off and making it first past the finish line.

In South Korea, the lunar New Year's Day coincides with "Chuseok," the Korean version of Thanksgiving holiday. Many people celebrate the day by eating a rice cake soup for breakfast, playing traditional games like a "yutnori," a board game involving wooden sticks, and spending quality time with family.
In Hong Kong, one of Asia's chief money capitals, the banks have printed up millions of fresh notes to fill "hong bao," or red envelopes traditionally given to children during the celebration.
Last year, the feng shui expert Lo predicted that the clash of fire and water elements would spark more bombings and gun battles. True to his predictions, the Year of the Pig saw a slew of suicide blasts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, including the assassination of popular Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

Some countries will see new leaders this year, including in the United States, where a new president will be elected in November. Celebrity fortune teller Peter So was coy about who he thought would win the race. "I can only say Hillary Clinton stands a better chance, as I don't see that Barack Obama or [Republican hopeful] John McCain will have a good year," So said.

1 comment:

Cindy G said...

Hmm, midwinter tornadoes across the south. Don't know if it's Earth and Water, or Gaea saying "wake up and smell the coffee"