This year Chinese New Year started on 1st February 2022. Some call it Chinese New Year, some call it Lunar New Year, and these names are equivalent. It is called Lunar New Year because it begins with the rise of the 2nd new moon after the winter solstice. Usually celebrated for multiple days, China's New Year is called Spring Festival and it ends after two weeks, that is on full moon, with the Lantern Festival.
Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations of the year among East and Southeast Asian cultures. Each culture celebrates the Lunar New Year with various foods and traditions that symbolize prosperity, abundance and togetherness, and honoring the ancestors. People travel heavily during the holiday as family members gather to mark the new year.
Chinese Lunar Calendar
The marking of the passage of time in China has for millennia been closely linked to the cyclical pattern of agricultural work, that in turn was closely linked to sun and moon cycles. Agrarian societies resided in rural areas and supported themselves directly or indirectly by the tilling of the soil. Life of people was arranged around events necessary to sustain life: plowing the fields, sowing seed, nurturing the crops, and gathering the harvest and so it was necessary to be able to know the optimal times for performing certain tasks. If a peasant planted a crop too late, he might miss advantageous spring rains; if he hesitated to reap his more delicate vegetables, he might lose them to the first frost. So it was all about timing and it was from this necessity that the Chinese lunar calendar was born.
But it was not always like that. In 1949 Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, forbade celebration of the traditional Chinese New Year and ordered to follow the Gregorian calendar only. Only at the end of the 20th century, the tradition of celebrating Lunar New Year was brought back. In fact, efforts to adopt the Gregorian calendar in China started much earlier. In 1912 Sun Yat-sen, the provisional president of the Republic of China, announced the adoption of the solar calendar. From 1929 the practice of printing calendars with a parallel lunar calendar and solar calendar was banned, as it “hindered the promotion of the Republic of China calendar”.
Same happened in the Western world in the past. Our actual Western Gregorian calendar doesn't resemble a calendar that would have been developed if we paid attention to our environment. If we did, then we would construct a calendar that is based on Sun and Moon phases, where we have 12 new moons and 12 full moons, two equinoxes (Spring and Autumn) and two solstices (Winter and Summer). So why our calendar doesn't reflect in awareness of nature rhythms? This is how it always happens: political, military, religious forces start a process of wiping out shamanic, indigenous society, then, in the process of taking over indegenious society, sacred dates are changed or natural tendencies that people have to honor the sacred dates associated with nature are disrupted and new „sacred” dates are introduced, that are associated with politics, new religion etc.
Calendar in the natural rhythms of nature
So the New Year, in the case of a society following nature, would be when the beginning of Spring is. And according to many cultures the beginning of Spring is around the 2nd new moon after winter solstice, when animals who retreated into their burrows with the start of the first real frosts of winter and hibernated, start to wake up when ground and air temperatures start rising. Some hibernating animals at that point in nature start to feel their call to prepare for reproduction and start looking for a mating partner - like eg. groundhogs – and isn't it interesting that in the USA they have a groundhog day on 2nd Feb.? This is a sign of good timing for that window of opportunity.
So according to the calculation of the Chinese tribes the Spring Festival is the 2nd new moon after winter solstice. In Chinese culture it is not a day, it is a week of celebration of the coming Spring. This is a beautiful way of linking the rhythm of the Sun – with solstice on the shortest day with rhythm of the Moon – with the new moon to give us the first day of Spring. And in Chinese astrology 12 animals comprise the zodiac (Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig). Each represents one year and combines with the Five Elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal)—to create a complete cycle of 60 years. Daoists have used the zodiac as an ongoing, ever-changing cycle of universal transformation in order to know how to take full advantage of the energies at play. Each year brings new characteristics, challenges, and opportunities.
This is the Year of the Water Tiger
So what does it mean for us?
Yin and Yang
Ancient Chinese Taoist philosophy explains the world in terms of two forces: yin and yang. Yang elements include light, fire, rain and the heavens. Yin elements include darkness, water, wind, and the earth. Male stands for yang, and female stands for yin. Yang qualities are active, while yin qualities are passive. Everything in the universe results from the interaction of yin and yang.
The dragon and tiger have long been symbols of these two forces. The dragon, a mythical animal, stands for yang. The tiger, respected in ancient China as the mightiest of the wild beasts, stands for yin.
Be like a Tiger!
The tiger crouches low to the ground, a sign that the yin earth is the tiger’s territory. Plants bend in the force of the wind, said to be created by the tiger’s mighty roar. But the tiger’s strength is a quiet power, held in her taut muscles, and with that the tiger is able to act instantaneously. The tiger represents courage, confidence, bravery, but also protectiveness. It is an embodiment of purpose and patience (exactly like a tiger deliberately and patiently stalks its prey). Its power is coiled and hidden deep within but at any moment a tiger can spring into action with transformative, even deadly force at will. So the new year could symbolize resilience and strength, courage in following what inspires you, and standing for one's true ground.
Water is yin, which can have the effect of tempering the fiercer qualities of the tiger and even bring out the emotional side with its positive side that you can feel very alive, but also negative side that can override reason. So don't allow your emotions to swing out of control.
How to practice this year?
It is a good year to practice power within movement, and apply a very directed type of power, like tigers do. It is a good year of building up power in body and mind as this can support you in all your endeavors. For example practicing Bagua Circle Walking (what we will do during Spring Retreat) while holding hands in power positions would be very valuable as well as practicing 5 Directions Cloud Hands that we were learning just recently during a workshop in Warsaw that link us to the cyclical forces of the Universe.
Talking about power, tiger power, we can have as much power as much space we have inside. Blockages inhibit space and inhibit motion and true power can arrive by first creating space in place of blockages. So this is a good year to work on resolving the deepest issues inside yourself. And you can work on it using that focused energy of courage and bravery, and of relaxed agility of a tiger!