The Almighty Dragon

2012 marks the start of the auspicious year of the Dragon (To be exact, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Dragon year started on 23 January 2012 and will end on 9 February 2013).  Chinese families around the world usually reunite on Chinese New Year’s Eve for a reunion dinner with the family. Being far away from home meant that I could not participate in the reunion dinner with my family in Singapore nor did I manage to visit  relatives and friends as Chinese families would typically do so from the 1st-15th day of the Chinese New Year.  So while I did not get to celebrate Chinese New Year in Paris this year, the saving grace came in the form of a Chinese New Parade parade that took place around the 3rd arrondisement in Paris. The Chinese diaspora in Paris (which is huge by the way!) donned costumes, painted their faces, carried their props and started their parade from the Paris City Hall. This came much to the delight of tourists and Parisians alike who came out of the shops and restaurants wondering what the din (i.e. firecrackers, brass gongs and drums etc) was about. It was quite a jostle to get to the front of the eager crowds but it was well worth it!

This is a typical Dragon Dance whereby a team carries the body of the dragon which is mounted on poles and they are supposed to bring the dragon to life through coordinated moves.

As I’ve often been asked to explain about the Chinese lunar calendar, I’ve decided to add a short explanation based on what I know. Each simple cycle of the Chinese calendar lasts 12 years and an animal is assigned to each of the 12 years.  There are a number of different stories explaining how the 12 animals were selected and their order determined. The story I was told when I was younger was that one day, the Jade Emperor  summoned all the animals and assigned a year to the first 12 animals who arrived.  The hardworking Ox was in the lead but the ingenious Rat got on to the back of the Ox.  Upon arrival, the Rat jumped ahead of the Ox and became first, followed by the Ox and so on and so forth.  The Pig took his own sweet time and came in last in 12th position.  So why was the almighty Dragon 5th in the cycle? It seems like the benevolent Dragon stopped along the way to help the Rabbit to cross the river to get to the Jade Emperor’s Palace and hence came in behind Rabbit. Voila, so that’s how we arrived at the cycle – Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

I’ve been asked by many friends – “What animal am I?”. Here is an easy reference (though those – like Bolly – who are born in the months of January/February should take heed as their zodiac animal sign may be the animal of the preceding year since the Chinese lunar calendar ends later than the calendar year, i.e. after December and often in end-January or early February).

Rat

Ox

Tiger

Rabbit

Dragon

Snake

Horse

Goat

Monkey

Rooster

Dog

Pig

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989

1978

1979

1980

1981

1982

1983

1972

1973

1974

1975

1976

1977

1966

1967

1968

1969

1970

1971

1960

1961

1962

1963

1964

1965

1954

1955

1956

1957

1958

1959

1948

1949

1950

1951

1952

1953

1942

1943

1944

1945

1946

1947

1936

1937

1938

1939

1940

1941

1930

1931

1932

1933

1934

1935

1924

1925

1926

1927

1928

1929

1918

1919

1920

1921

1922

1923

P/S: The year of the Dragon traditionally spurs a baby bonanza amongst the Chinese communities around the world as the Dragon is a symbol of power, strength and fortune.

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