January 22, 2004, Chinese New Year, Year of the Monkey, 4702

January 22, 2004 marks the second new moon after the winter solstice. And that's the start of what Westerners call Chinese New Year and what millions of Chinese call Spring Festival, their biggest cultural celebration of the year.

Throughout the Triangle, Chinese people and lovers of Chinese culture have begun gathering to say goodbye to the Year of the Ram and hello to the Year of the Monkey.

The Chinese keep track of birth dates through 12 animals in a zodiac calendar, each animal representing a year and all 12 representing a "great year." They are the rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Each person born in a given year is said to be imbued with unique characteristics associated with that animal.

People born in the Year of the Monkey are the erratic geniuses of the cycle, clever, skillful and flexible, they are remarkably inventive and original and can solve the most difficult problems with ease. They are said to be most compatible with the dragon and rat.

Each animal in the Chinese zodiac is represented by one of five "elements" important to Chinese culture -- wood, water, fire, earth and metal, known by many Westerners who have embraced principles of Feng Shui into the design of their living spaces.

This year's monkey is wood. So even though every great year brings another Year of the Monkey, the year of the wooden monkey comes only once every 60 years, called a "cycle" on the Chinese calendar. Rather than keeping track by tens, as in decades and millennia, the Chinese calendar logs great years, cycles and 12-cycle "epochs."

January 21, 2004.....Theresa Wong, Reporting from Chinatown, Manhattan...

"Gung Hay Fat Choy"... This is the Chinese New Year's greeting meaning, 'Wishing you a prosperous year.'

The streets of Chinatown are filled with people carrying bags of groceries in preparation for traditional foods for parties that continue for 15 days, closing with an observance called the Festival of Lanterns.

The shop windows are covered in red good luck symbols, many with monkeys on them.

Red lanterns hang from outside awnings.

Like the yin and yang, it's a quiet festival where families hang lanterns in trees in parks, there's no music, very quiet, and it's the end of the Spring Festival.

Some celebrants explode fireworks at midnight. Others have been hanging colorful calligraphy writings called "chun lian," which means "spring couplet," around doorways to invite good health and good luck for the new year. As fresh paper replaces the past year's tattered versions, it reminds occupants of the season's new beginnings.

Street vendors are selling red envelopes for good luck money.

Married people give out these little red envelopes filled with money to the unmarried people to wish them good luck and prosperity in the New Year.

Spring Festival in China "is the equivalent of our Christmas and New Year's and Easter and the Fourth of July, all wrapped up into one month of incredible and expensive celebration.

My sons have new haircuts which is traditional, brand new shoes, new clothing.

We cleaned house yesterday, symbolizing cleaning out the bad luck of the old year.

Different Chinese communities will be having parades with floats and fireworks this weekend.

A chimpanzee holds aloft a fake gold ingot during a performance to entertain New Year revelers at a zoo in Guangzhou, southern China, January 22, 2004., Reuters

From Celestial Timings...

January 22, The New Moon, 1 Aquarius, marks the Chinese New Year, the year of the Green Wooden Monkey, a 'trickster' energy expressing through playful fun, resourcefulness, cleverness, vitality, versatility, activity, mischief, persuasiveness, and loyalty. The Chinese New Year is a celebration of renewal and coming prosperity. Some New Year Festival traditions are enacted by making vows, homes are cleaned, debts are paid, new clothing, new rice and other foods are purchased and families gather for a festive banquet on the eve of the New Year, New Moon activation. This New Year, New Moon window is an opportunity to step back for a cosmic overview, revolutionizing our thinking through the lens of the trickster experimenting with new ways of being that are vital, resourceful and fun., Celestial Timings

Thoth who was the Hermes and the Trickster
was sometimes depicted as a seated baboon-headed dog.

Solar Disc and Ankh=Key, Monkey, Monk+key, Monks