Tiger Arrives with the New Year

Feb/02/2022 / by Swarnendu Biswas
Image credits: Shutterstock

Like many of our day-to-day beliefs and usages, year too is a civilizational construct. In every culture, a new year doesn’t begin on 1st January.  On 1st February 2022, a brand Chinese new year did take its birth. This Chinese new year is the Year of the Tiger, and its duration would last till 21st January 2023.

Chinese New Year, which is also known as Lunar New Year, is a day marking the commencement of a new year on the traditional lunisolar and solar Chinese calendar. Lunisolar calendar combines lunar calendars and solar calendars.  

In the space of Gregorian calendar, which we and most of the world use and which came into being only in October 1582 by replacing the Julian calendar, the Chinese New Year starts at the new moon that emerges between 21st January and 20th February.

Interesting Legend

Every Chinese year is represented by any one of the twelve animals, and these 12 animals comprise the signs of Chinese zodiac which pertains to Chinese calendar. In terms of order, the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat (sometimes interchangeable with sheep), monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Tiger is the third animal in order in the Chinese zodiac. Each of these twelve animals is viewed to be having unique characteristics in the Chinese culture. The tigeris generally associated with valour, courage and strength. Those born in the Year of the Tiger are expected to be kind, adventurous, and also show aggressive, short-tempered and anxious traits.

 There is an interesting legend which goes into the reason behind the zodiac ranking of these animals. The Chinese god Jade Emperor selected these above-mentioned 12 animals to be his guards. The condition was that the earlier animals went through the Heavenly Gate better rank they would have. Rat came first and the pig was the last of these 12 animals to cross the Heavenly Gate.

Animals and Elements

A given Chinese New Year associated with one of the above-mentioned given animals (say Year of the Rat) comes once in twelve years. For example, the earlier year of the tiger continued between 14th February 2010 -2nd February 2011.

Each of these animal signs in Chinese zodiac in a given year corresponds with one of the five elements, which are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. To be more specific we can say from 1st February 2022 -21st January 2023, it is the year of water tiger in Chinese calendar. It is believed that those people who are born in a water tiger year are loyal to the family and have strong relationships with others.

Customs and Celebrations

Chinese New Year is one of the most important holidays and celebrations in China and Taiwan. It is also known as Spring Festival.  The tradition of celebrating Chinese New Year can be traced to the realms of antiquity but it is also believed that they originated some 2300 years ago.

The festivities associated with Chinese New Year last for more than two weeks. It is also celebrated in a big way across the globe in regions and countries where there are significant numbers of overseas Chinese or Chinese speaking populations, which include Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Peru among others.

Several myths and customs surround the celebration of the Chinese New Year, one of which is the honoring of deities and ancestors. The evening before the Chinese New Year day is often being treated as an occasion for extended families to congregate for the annual reunion dinner.

Decoration of windows and doors with red paper-cuts and couplets; mostly with themes of good fortune, wealth and longevity, cleaning the house and lighting firecrackers are also part of this celebration. Of course, roads and shops in areas where there is a sizeable majority of Chinese population are also decorated during Chinese new year. Adults giving money to children in red paper envelopes with the belief that the packet will prevent evil and grant a long life is also part of the celebration.

On the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, Yuan Xiao Festival takes place where a plethora of paper lanterns are being released by people into the sky. Overall, it is a time of gaiety, and for family and a new beginning.