Sunday, 2 February 2014

The ride: Chinese New Year

"If you hurry through long days, you will hurry through short years."
 (Chinese proverb)

Friday 31st January saw the start of the fifteen days of celebration of the Chinese New Year, also known as "Spring Festival". Welcome to the Year of The Horse. I went to my local Morrison's to hunt and gather vegetarian spring rolls and chilli rice crackers on Friday, only to find they'd sold out of both.
"For Chinese New Year I suppose?" I suggested to the pretty and very eager sales assistant.
"Oh... I don't know. What is it?"
"Year of the Horse," I said helpfully. She suddenly looked quite disturbed.
"No! No we weren't one of those shops. We never sold that!"
She carried on glaring at me as I scuttled off to capture my blueberries and M & M cookies.
Catholics aren't supposed to set any store by horoscopes; this I know and appreciate. But my mother was an Irish Catholic and very much an Aries; therefore she maintained that most horoscopes were rubbish and never came true but read them religiously (pun intended) everyday to see just how rubbish they were and anyway, Aries people were strong and passionate and made the best Catholics. When I was thirteen, a lovely old nun called Sister Mary Clare remarked on my birthday that I was most unlike any Piscean she had ever encountered; apparently more feisty and strong-minded. She deduced I must have had "a lot of rogue planets around" when I was born. Indeed.
She also remarked that I must be more like my Chinese horoscope, confirming that I was born in the Year of the Tiger. Tiger people are allegedly fearless to the point of being rash; lively minded and kind, but will always go their own way, often against all advice. Energetic, but prone to injuring themselves... There's also a Chinese saying that once you jump on the back of the tiger, you may find it impossible to get off in one piece. Hmm. Well, I've always loved the character of A. A. Milne's Tigger; he also liked to jump up and climb things with no real idea of how to get down again.
I read today that Tiger people have a special affinity with Dog, Dragon and Horse folk. The Year of the Horse is said to be one of strong ideals and opinions surfacing and emotions bubbling away under the surface until they must erupt. Typically, it's said to be a year of shocks and volcanoes. Sadly, I was pondering this as I heard the news about Mount Sinabung erupting in North Sumatra, Indonesia, killing at least fourteen people.
 The Chinese zodiac is based on the five elements of earth, water, fire, wood and metal which influence the universe and interact with the twelve animals of a cyclical zodiac, resulting in specific characters for the year of that animal and those born at that time. This is an ancient calendar system, originating in the Han dynasty about two hundred years before the birth of Christ.
Those born in the Horse's year can be expected to be active, animated and independent. I for one hope this year proves to be all of those things, but also one of great peace. The past year seems to have been one of division and strife, with increasingly loud  but vacuous celebrities, bigots and politicians... Yet last year the Catholic Church found in Pope Francis an active, animated and independent pontiff; also a man who promotes great peacefulness in all that he says and with all that he does. He was born in the Year of the Rat; Catholics are probably not meant to calculate their pope's Chinese birth-sign either. Must be the Tiger in me.
Unable to find my spring rolls, I've gathered together some old Chinese proverbs from various sources. They sing true individually but also sit together beautifully and read like a very spirited prayer. Whatever your sign or symbol, may truth be the most fitting element for us all this year.

"Chinese Proverbs for the New Year"
"When the wind of change blows, some build walls; others build windmills.
No wind, no waves.
If the wind comes from an empty cave, it's not without a reason.
Teachers open the door. You must enter by yourself.
Don't fear going forward slowly; only fear the standing still.
A book that remains tightly shut is simply a block of paper.
Deep doubts grow deep wisdom.
Better to have a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without one.
You may dream different dreams while always sleeping on the same bed.
Not only can water float a boat, it can also sink it.
An ant may well destroy a whole dam.
Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
Only one who can swallow an insult deserves to dine like a man.
Good medicine often tastes the most bitter.
Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead.
With true friends, even water drunk together is sweet enough.
A dog won't forsake his master because of his poverty; no babe ever refused his mother's breast because of her homeliness.
There is only one pretty child in the world and every mother has it.
Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck, leads the flock to follow.
Not wine: men intoxicate themselves. Not vice: men entice themselves.
Mankind fears an evil man but heaven does not.
If heaven made someone, earth can find some use for them.
If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.
One joy scatters a hundred sorrows.
Fragrance will cling to the hand that gives the flowers.
An inch of time is an inch of gold but you can't buy that inch of time with an inch of gold.
Make happy those you have near; those who are far will surely come to you.
The bird doesn't sing because it has the answer; it sings because it has a song."

"Forget the favours given; remember those received."
(Chinese proverb)
"Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?"  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (version of U2's original song) 


  1. A friend of mine was born under Taurus the Bull; and did he smell bad! The bull was surprised.

    Hope you're keeping well.

    God bless.

  2. Haha thank you as ever Victor! Being born under two fishes probably isn't that sanitary either, if you put it like that! God bless you and your family Vic, whatever the year x