Lunar New Year: Welcoming the Year of the Tiger

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Saying goodbye to the Ox, we enter the Year of the Tiger on February 1, 2022.

Though the pandemic continues to overshadow the occasion, with public festivities once again pared down or canceled in many cities, millions of families around the world will still be celebrating at home.

Here’s a quick guide to the most common Lunar New Year traditions and superstitions, as well as insights from some of Hong Kong’s most established geomancers on what the Year of the Tiger might have in store.

Lunar New Year 101

Lunar New Year festivities can often last for up to 15 days, with different tasks and activities taking place over that period. (In China, it’s also referred to as the Spring Festival.)

Though the spread of Omicron has impacted the way people are celebrating this year, don’t despair and remember the unofficial #1 tip from the Lunar New Year rule book: Focus on the positive and only use auspicious language.

So how is the Lunar New Year traditionally celebrated? It all begins about a week ahead of the new year.

On the 26th day of the last lunar month — January 28 this year — festive cakes and puddings are made. The word for cakes and puddings is “gao” in Mandarin or “go” in Cantonese, which sounds the same as the word for “tall,” meaning eating them is believed to lead to improvements and growth in the coming year.

(If you haven’t prepared your own “go” yet, here’s an easy recipe for turnip cake, a beloved Lunar New Year dish.)

Then, a big cleanup is done in homes on the 28th day, which was January 30 this year. The aim here is to rid your home of any bad luck that’s accumulated over the past year.

Red is the de facto Lunar New Year color. It's assoicated with luck and prosperity.

Red is the de facto Lunar New Year color. It’s assoicated with luck and prosperity.

Chen Chuhong/China News Service/Getty Images

A big family reunion dinner is usually held on Lunar New Year’s Eve, which falls on January 31 this year.

The menu is carefully chosen to include dishes associated with luck, including fish (the Chinese word for it sounds like the word for “surplus”), puddings (symbolizes advancement) and foods that look like gold ingots (like dumplings).

Though many Western nations refer to the Lunar New Year/Spring Festival holiday as Chinese New Year, bear in mind it’s celebrated not just in Chinese communities but in other Asian countries, including Vietnam and South Korea.

Countries that observe Lunar New Year often offer three to seven days of public holidays but celebrations aren’t complete until the 15th day of the first lunar month, also known as the Lantern Festival.

People are expected to visit relatives and friends in the early days of new year — except for the third day of the month. Day three of Lunar New Year (which falls on February 3 this year) is named “chi kou,” or red mouth. It’s believed that arguments are more likely to happen on this day, so people will visit temples and avoid social interactions.

Cities around the world welcome the Lunar New Year with lantern shows and fireworks.

Cities around the world welcome the Lunar New Year with lantern shows and fireworks.

VCG/Getty Images

There are plenty of other rules and superstitions attached to the Lunar New Year. For instance, don’t wash or cut your hair on the first day of the new year. Why? The Chinese character for hair is the first character in the word for prosper. Therefore washing or cutting it off is seen as washing your fortune away.

You’ll also want to avoid purchasing footwear for the entire lunar month, as the term for shoes (haai) sounds like losing and sighing in Cantonese.

Throughout the 15-day festival, hosts usually prepare candy boxes and snacks for their guests. Married couples are expected to hand out red packets filled with money to children and unmarried adults to wish them luck.

The seventh day (February 7) is said to be the day when the Chinese mother goddess Nuwa created mankind and, thus, is called renri (the people’s birthday).

Different communities in Asia will serve different birthday foods on that day. For instance, people in Malaysia enjoy yeesang, or a “Prosperity Toss” of raw fish and shredded vegetables, whereas Cantonese people will eat sweet rice balls.

The highlight comes on the last day (February 15). In ancient Chinese society, it was the only day when young girls could go out to admire lanterns and meet boys. Thus, it’s also been dubbed Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Nowadays, cities around the world still put on massive lantern displays and fairs on the final day of the festival.

Heavenly stems and earthly branches

The 12-year Chinese zodiac calendar cycle is represented by 12 different animals — the Chinese zodiac signs — but that’s only the start.

Followers believe that for each of the Chinese zodiac signs, luck will depend largely on the positions of the Tai Sui — the stars directly opposite Jupiter.

If your zodiac sign clashes with Tai Sui — aka the Grand Duke of Jupiter — in a particular year, the experts say you might find yourself dealing with disruptions. (Find your sign here.)

A year isn’t just categorized by its zodiac animal. There’s also a complex sexagenary cycle made up of 10 heavenly stems and 12 earthly branches.

Every year, a heavenly stem (one of five elements, which fall into either the yin or yang category) is paired with an earthly branch (one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac).

So February 1 marks the beginning of “Ren Yin” year, the 39th element of the Chinese sexagenary cycle. The Tiger — “Yin” — is paired with the heavenly stem “Ren” — water. So it’s referred to as the Year of the Water Tiger.

Confused yet? We asked some of Hong Kong’s most established geomancy consultants to help explain what it all means.

The world will welcome the Year of the Tiger on February 1, 2022.

The world will welcome the Year of the Tiger on February 1, 2022.

VCG/Getty Images

“Water Tiger is the name of the year but don’t be mistaken — wood and fire elements are much more prominent than water this year,” Hong Kong geomancy consultant So Man-fung Peter tells CNN Travel.

“How the year affects you depends on what elements you need and fear according to your birth chart.”

A 60-year calendar is often used to calculate how each person’s birth sign will be affected in a particular year.

In Chinese geomancy, one’s birthday chart is composed of a wide range of elements that interact with the year’s heavenly and earthly stems. So for many, the calendar plays an important role in making huge life decisions for the year ahead, such as whether they should get married or start a business.

Because these birthday charts are composed of a wide range of elements such as the day and time of their birth, they may interact with the year a bit differently.

But “there is some general guidance we could follow,” says So.

“Most people born in autumn and winter (August 8 to March 6) generally need more wood and fire; they will see an improvement in their fortune from 2022. (Those dates apply to those in the Southern Hemisphere as well, even though the seasons are different.)

“Fire also signifies clashes like car accidents. So if you’re clashing with Tai Sui this year, you would want to be extra careful when you drive,” says So.

Thierry Chow, another well-known Hong Kong geomancy consultant, agrees that road accidents are a concern given this year’s prevailing elements. But she thinks that water will still play a vibrant role in 2022.

“So we can expect big movements for anything water-related, which unfortunately could mean more water-related disasters, or big ocean movements,” she tells CNN. “On a more positive note, the Water Tiger year also represents strength in the arts, technology and design sector, which means these areas will be thriving.”

Which animals will have a good year?

Different geomancy masters may interpret the data differently, but there is a general consensus on what the year means for each zodiac animal based on the positions of the stars, especially Tai Sui.

As noted above, if your zodiac sign clashes with Tai Sui in a particular year, you might find yourself dealing with disruptions.

Born in the year of the Tiger? It's your "Ben Ming Nian."

Born in the year of the Tiger? It’s your “Ben Ming Nian.”

Xu Hongxing/VCG/Getty Images

People born in the Year of the Tiger will be facing their “Ben Ming Nian” — their own zodiac year — in 2022. Followers believe this means there will be more disruptions and instabilities in the year to come.

“Your financial luck isn’t too bad this year but you may be overshadowed by negative emotions. So it’s better if you focus on your work and boost your wealth this year. If you’re a winter baby, you could try to advance at work,” says So of what lies ahead for the world’s Tigers. “Be very careful when you drive, especially in first lunar month.”

A few other zodiac signs will also be clashing with Tai Sui in various ways, including Monkeys. Similar to Tigers, they may deal with challenges in relationships and unexpected changes.

“If you’re born in spring or summer, you may want to reconsider making bold career moves this year,” says So. “But if you’re single, the clash may bring you some luck in love.”

People born in the year of the Snake will also be conflicting with Tai Sui this year, which may lead to an increase in gossip and annoyances.

“Among all the signs, I think Snakes should be most careful this year. ‘Ying Tai Sui’ usually translates to tricky problems involving legal documents — problems that may not go away easily. If you really need to sign any document this year, you’ll need to be immensely thorough,” says So.

Meanwhile, Pigs are in only in a slightly conflicting position with Tai Sui. They could find themselves arguing with friends, but So thinks that a lucky star will bring Pigs some helpful benefactors.

“There is a lucky star shining above Pigs this year. We call it ‘luk hap’ (the unity of six directions — everything aligns with the universe in a harmonious way) so it’s actually a pretty good year for them.”

Clashing with Tai Sui is not as scary as it sounds. Followers believe there are ways to improve your luck.

“Traditionally people always think that change or instability is bad but it can actually be a good thing and a chance for you to grow a lot. It’s not about fighting the change but embracing it,” says Chow.

“I encourage people to attend happy events. There’s a saying…if you have one happy event, it will counteract and balance out the negative energy of three events.”

She says getting married, attending parties or anything that could bring you joy would lessen the blow.

On the other hand, people born in the year of the Horse will be matching with Tai Sui, “which means that they will enjoy great relationships despite facing some gossip. They may enjoy an improvement in power, status and wealth,” says So.

As for the rest of the animals, So says Goats and Oxes will enjoy much better luck in romance and at work this year compared to 2021.

People born in the year of the Rabbit could see romantic relationships easily come and go.

If you are born in the year of Dog, it could be a positive year for two types of people: those with works connected to foreign lands and those who are artists, says So.

And finally, Roosters could find themselves meeting people who will help them in 2022, while Rats and Dragons don’t have any significant lucky or unlucky stars shining above them and will have a relatively peaceful year.

As we say in Hong Kong, sun nien fai lok!

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