Friday, February 12, 2010

Year of the Tiger on the Day of Love

Gung Hay Fat Choy!
This year, February 14th will be triply auspicious. It is not only my birthday and Valentine’s Day, but it is also the first day of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Tiger. Chinese tradition claims that the Year of the Tiger represents someone who is sensitive, emotional, and capable of great love. They have a tendency to get carried away, and can be stubborn about what they thinks is right. Often the Tiger is one who speaks out on righting the world’s wrongs, but in the process may show up as a rebel.

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nien (Chinese: 年; pinyin: nián). Nien would come on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nien ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nien was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nien was afraid of the colour red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nien.

Happy Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day is an annual holiday held on February 14th celebrating love and affection between intimate companions in honor of Saint Valentine. Legend has it that Valentine was a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first "valentine" himself to the jailer's daughter whom he had befriended and healed. It was a note that read "From your Valentine."

My birthday is also February 14th. Since I like to celebrate my birthday on its actual day, years ago I instituted the Week of Valentine. For purely selfish reasons I buy my true love a gift each day the week prior to February 14th and then my birthday is clear for the focus to shift to me. However, this appears to be very popular for my wife as well. She enjoys the extra celebration of love, and her friends eagerly await each days announcement of the gifts (many of my friends, however, have told me to knock it off because their girls want a whole week too ;-). Many people have emailed me and sent birthday greetings on Twitter, Facebook and even Google's new Buzz. I appreciate all the love and I will probably spend most of the weekend off line enjoying time with my family.