Friday, February 1, 2008

Countdown to Chinese New Year

Today is February 1 and on February 7, 2008 it will be the beginning of the Lunar New Year 4705--the year of the rat. Growing up, Chinese New Year was the big holiday in my family--we celebrated (and still do) this day as a special holiday as well as my father's birthday (he celebrates according to the lunar calendar, so his birthday is always the day after the new year, which means it varies year to year when I send his gift).

There are various things you are supposed to do to prepare for the new year, most of them having to do with ways to ensure that the upcoming year will be prosperous. You aren't supposed to wash your hair on the first day of the new year or to use scissors (you don't want to wash away the luck from your hair or cut your luck short). You are also supposed to pay all debts (a near impossibility for those of us living in the U.S. in a credit society with home mortgages, car loans, and credit cards), and in general you are supposed to be positive and to see the upcoming year as auspicious.

So in honor of the upcoming lunar new year, I'm going to do a countdown of things I'm thankful for, as a way to pay the debt of gratitude to so many in my life, or just simply as a way to be positive. I think that so often there are so many things to be critical of, especially in a blog dedicated to issues of race in America. But for the next seven days, I'm dedicating this blog to positive things I see on our horizon, various plugs for books, films, or people, and generally observations of positive things in our world. I'm not trying to be a Pollyana or to ignore the MANY problems we face in the world, but since I've already said I'm a glass-half full kind of gal, I think being positive for a few days isn't a bad thing.

And my positive appreciation for today's post is that I get to celebrate Chinese New Year. I mean, this may seem like a silly thing to appreciate or show gratitude for, but I've often felt a lack of ritual in my life, especially since I'm agnostic. But every time Chinese New Year rolls around, I go into a certain ritual of cleaning my house, sticking to the superstitions I mentioned above, trying to pay as many of my debts as possible, keeping to the positive spirit of the new year, and, of course, eating yummy food (and there are so many great food rituals associated with the new year). The richness of my memories of Chinese New Year as a child and the richness of continuing this cultural celebration as an adult just makes me feel happy.

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