Metal tiger roars in for Chinese New Year 2010

Leah Mulaly

     In the United States, the New Year is rung in with a huge party in Times Square, drinks, fireworks, bonfires and general partying. The Chinese New Year, on the other hand, is a more traditional event, beginning with the second new moon after the winter solstice, which falls on February 14 this year. The Chinese year of 4707, known to us as 2010, is the Year of the Tiger—the Metal (or White) Tiger to be specific. In addition to each year having a different animal of the Chinese Zodiac, rotating on a cycle of 12 years, each year also has an element, either fire, earth, water, wood or metal. Although much of the Chinese Zodiac is considered superstition, at least one thing is plausible: 2010 will be a chaotic year, for the human race in general.

     Every two years, the year’s element changes. For instance, 1991 and 1992 were both metal years. The next two years were water, then wood, then fire and then earth. Those born in a wood year will not have a great Metal Tiger year. For those born in a water year, it will be slightly better than average. And of course, people born in a Metal year will do well if their animal sign is also compatible with the Tiger. If not, they could run into conflict.

     The Tiger’s natural element is wood, so having a Metal Tiger causes a conflict of elements, creating an unlucky year. 2010 is actually one in six unlucky years with a conflict of elements. Considering the war in the Middle East, the recent state of the economy and other global issues, this seems accurate. Both the year’s element and its animal are supposed to predict how the year will turn out overall. According to www.astrology.com, “Events set in motion now will pick up speed and continue until either the objective is attained or the whole endeavor crashes and burns.” More walls will be knocked down than built in 2010. Adventurous people will be rewarded and peaceful people may be unhappy.

     On the positive side, the Year of the Metal Tiger will be a good year for accomplishing what seems impossible, and making progress on tasks that have been put off. However, tasks that shouldn’t have been started in the first place will also make progress and likely be completed, which may cause more harm than good. This is because the Metal Tiger has the mentality of a follower, and once things get going, they may just run right off a cliff and meet their unpleasant end.

     Basically, the Year of the Tiger is the time to overcome immense problems. However, the force that aids in endeavors also aids opposition, so forcing the issue would not be beneficial. 

     Although the year’s prospects cannot be changed, there are many things the Chinese do to reign in good luck for the New Year. One belief is to thoroughly clean the house before New Year’s Day. All cleaning supplies are put away New Year’s Eve, and absolutely no cleaning is done New Year’s Day because it might sweep away good luck. After New Year’s Day, the house may be swept, but in a very particular fashion. Starting at the door, the dirt is swept to the middle of the parlor and then into the corners of the room. The dirt remains there until the fifth day of the New Year, and must not be stepped on. When the dirt is finally taken out, it must be carried out the back door because carrying it out the entrance to the house may sweep away good fortune.

     To welcome the New Year and let the old year out, the Chinese open all their doors and windows at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve.

      Additionally on New Year’s Day, the Chinese refrain from using profanity and unlucky words, such as the word “four,” which sounds like the Chinese word for death. Death is forbidden to mention and ghost stories are taboo as all attention should be turned toward the New Year and a clean slate. References to the past year are also inadvisable.

     As far as appearance, the Chinese do not wash their hair on New Year’s Day because it would wash away good luck for the New Year. Red is the best color to wear for the festivities, as it is a bright, happy color believed to bring the wearer a bright future. Appearance and attitude during New Year’s celebration is thought to set the mood for the whole year. Supposedly, if you cry on New Year’s Day, you will cry throughout the whole year. For that reason, children are tolerated instead of spanked or reprimanded, even if they behave badly. Children and other unmarried people, as well as close relatives, are given lai see, which are small red envelopes with one dollar bills inside, for good fortune. Although many Chinese people no longer believe in these superstitions, the traditions are still carried out because they create a link with the past and give the family an identity. 

     In Chinese culture, the first person met and the first words heard in the New Year signify what the fortunes will be for the whole year. In addition, seeing or hearing songbirds, red birds or swallows is a good sign. Hopefully, signs of luck and good fortune will prelude the coming year, no matter what it brings.