Celebrating Chinese New Year: A Second Chance to Set Your Intentions
Chinese New Year follows the Chinese lunar calendar and typically falls somewhere toward the end of January (this year it falls on the 25th), just about the time that most people have started to wane on their resolutions.
This tendency to wane is the reason that I recommend having themes or intentions instead of resolutions, and one of the reasons that I love Chinese New Year.
If we have themes or intentions instead of making resolutions we leave room for the fact that life happens. Because truly, when we fall short it is so rarely about willpower. It is more likely about not choosing the right goal, or not having the right support, or even about our own subconscious getting in our own way.
Because of this, throughout the year I take advantage of all of the ‘new beginnings’ I can find. This includes Chinese New Year, the spring, summer, winter, and fall solstices, the Rosh Hashana, and others that have meaning just for me.
On these new beginnings I reassess my values as well as reassess how I want to feel in my body and mind (you can find these exercises in my book) and then I regroup if necessary (goodness, life is complicated and regrouping is so often necessary!)
In addition to providing us with another opportunity to reflect, each Chinese New Year is rich in symbolism as they are associated with an animal from the Chinese zodiac. 2019 was a year of the pig and this year is…
A Year of the Rat
I, personally am not a rat fan. Those of you who know or follow me may remember that we had rats in our house (ahem, walls) right before my book was published. My husband thought we should stay in the house while we were dealing with the ‘situation’ but I was a hard no on that. We had the opportunity to stay in an apartment across the street and I was there quicker than you could say “ratfarts.”
But in Chinese astrology and culture rats aren’t bad. There are good qualities and difficult qualities. Just like every year. Just like life.
Qualities of the Rat include cunningness, hard work, strong vitality and cleverness. As the start of the cycle of zodiac animals, the Rat represents the beginning of a “new day.”In traditional culture, Rats are a sign of wealth and surplus. People born in the year of the rat are thought to have quick minds with active and full imagination, and a sharp ability to observe the world around them. They have the reputation of being prosperous and wealthy and take advantage of opportunities the spy.
Rituals of the Chinese New Year
As an acupuncturist with a masters in Chinese medicine (I completed that degree after my doctorate in Naturopathic medicine) I feel particularly drawn to make note of and participate in the rituals of this holiday.
I will note though that I try to be careful about cultural appropriation, which means taking someone else’s cultural ideas and rituals and using them for exploitation or personal gain. We see this with caricatures and making light of things that are important to people’s cultural heritage. And, as someone who strives to understand world cultures, and someone who spent a great deal of time living in a community that celebrated just about every holiday out there, I do include celebrations and rituals that may not be those I was born to. Not everyone will be comfortable with this, however. Feel into what feels right and respectful for you.
Some common rituals of the Chines New Year include:
• As part of the run-up (if you’re reading this when I post it, that would be now!) it is considered traditional to clear clutter to make way for the new! Clean out the cabinets, banish clutter and make your space beautiful.
• Catch up with family and friends
• Watch traditional dance or fireworks shows
• Eat traditional treats such as glutinous rice balls or dumplings, especially on the Eve of the New Year, and the 1st and the 5th
• Give away satsumas or mandarin oranges to friends and coworkers, they are a traditional symbol of good fortune and abundance.
• Send greeting cards to loved ones, family, and friends
• Wear red clothing and use red everywhere feasibly possible during New Year preparations. Red is considered auspicious all the time in Chinese culture and during the Lunar New Year it is especially so.
How to Make your Own Fresh Start
In addition to clearing clutter from my home for this holiday, I use it as a time to clear emotional and physical clutter from my body as well.
It’s a great time to re-up your commitment to your values, your health, and your self-care. A great way to do this that is in alignment with the holiday is acupuncture. I do acupuncture in my clinic (we even bill insurance) and most communities have at least one practitioner.
Acupuncture is a great way to settle the mind, nourish yourself, heal, and get in touch with your deepest intentions for your life and year ahead. Come in and refresh to help find your perfect balance.
Happy New Beginnings,