2015-02-19 / Around Town

Chinese Year of the Goat

By Bettie Sarantos

Year of the Goat Feb. 19, 2015 – Feb. 8, 2016 Year of the Goat Feb. 19, 2015 – Feb. 8, 2016 The oldest and most important festival in China is the Spring Festival, known in the West as Chinese New Year. The date is determined by the lunar/solar calendar, so the date of the holiday varies from late January to mid-February. It arrives with the second new moon after the winter solstice. Like the West, the East has a zodiac but the Eastern system has a cycle of twelve years, instead of months. This is year 4713 in China.

Each year has its own particular animal and according to one Chinese legend, Buddha established the zodiac many centuries ago when he attempted to restore order to the affairs of the world by inviting all of the animal kingdom to a summit conference but only 12 beasts came. He named the years after them in the order in which they arrived – Rat, Oxen, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Each animal presides over an entire year, and all of the events that occur are influenced by the special characteristics of the animal.

Following the energetic “Year of the Horse” we welcome the “Year of the Goat.” The Goat ranks number eight in the Chinese Zodiac. This is an auspicious number for the Chinese, symbolizing peace and prosperity. It is a year we can expect harmony and a keen sense for coexisting with our enemies. This is a good year for making new friends, expanding our creativity and aesthetic ventures, and enjoying our home and surroundings.

People born in Goat years are gentle, fond of people and gatherings, artistic, may be meek, timid and a bit pessimistic by nature. They will excel in any job that involves caring for others.

A few notable Goats are Michelangelo, Jane Austen, Andrew Carnegie, Julia Roberts, Bill Gates, Andy Warhol, Katharine Hepburn, Whoopi Goldberg, Kate Hudson, George Harrison, Mark Twain and John Wayne.

Many customs and traditions are associated with the Chinese New Year. All debts from the old year are paid, and children receive red packets decorated with gold symbols and filled with “lucky money.” The home is cleaned thoroughly so that any bad luck that may have accumulated over the past year is swept away. Doors and window panes are decorated and fresh spring flowers are a must. Food is a symbolic part of the celebration. For example, noodles uncut represent a long life and an orange means good luck. A whole chicken symbolizes family togetherness, and fish is served whole, symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year. Fireworks are a must, as they attract good spirits.

Bettie Sarantos is a Newport artist and teacher of Chinese brush painting.

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