Happy Chinese New Year

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Most of us just celebrated a new year a little over a month ago, but for most of Asia, and much of the world outside of Asia, the lunar new year is just beginning.

Unlike January first, the lunar new year is not linked to the calendar, but is instead tied to the phases of the moon.

In a practical sense, this means that events, like personal birthdays, may not match (for a month or two) the calendar year with the lunar year.

The lunar new year may begin anywhere between late January and late February.

The Chinese calendar defines the lunar month with winter solstice as the 11th month, which means that Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice.

In 2019 the first day of the Chinese New Year was on Tuesday, 5 February, initiating the Year of the Pig (also known as the boar).  (1*)

In 2020 the new year will begin Saturday, January 25th, and will be the year of the Rat.

2021, the year of the Ox will begin Friday, February 12th.

The Pig is the last of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar.

According to Chinese astrology, 2019 will be a great year to make money and a good year to invest. 2019 is going to be full of joy, a year of friendship and love for all the zodiac signs; an auspicious year because the pig attracts success in all the spheres of life.

As you might guess, each lunar year is said to reflect the characteristics of its animal.  (2*)

The twelve animals are; 

Rat, (1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, spirit, wit, alertness, delicacy, flexibility and vitality).

Ox, (1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, often tardy in action, but industrious and cautious, conservative and hold their faith firmly).

Tiger, (1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, brave, cruel, forceful, stately and terrifying, power and lordliness).

Rabbit (1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, not aggressive but approachable, with a decent, noble and elegant manner).

Dragon, (1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, by far the most eccentric, but also known for dignity, honor, success, luck, and capacity).

Snake, (1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, malevolence, cattiness, acumen and mystery).

Horse, (1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, enthusiasm, energy, independence and integrity).

Goat, (1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, also known as the sheep or ram, is known for being gentle and calm).

Monkey, (1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, clever and auspicious).

Rooster, (1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, fidelity and punctuality).

Dog, (1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, Dogs are loyal and faithful).

And Pig, (1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, likes sleeping and eating, behaves itself, has no plan to harm others, and can bring affluence to people. Consequently, it has been regarded as a harbinger of wealth).

Photo by Morf Morford
Photo by Morf Morford

Those of us who celebrate the new year on January first may be surprised to find that the lunar year is celebrated over about two weeks. That two week break is called the Spring Festival in mainland China.

We in Tacoma have our own way of celebrating this historic acknowledgment of the passing of time.

We have a Chinese New Year’s event and our own Monkeyshines tradition.

Monkeyshines began in 2003 when a group of anonymous artists produced 200 glass balls and medallions emblazoned with the Year of the Monkey stamp. On Chinese New Year 2004, those pieces of artwork were hidden throughout the city to encourage our community members to get out and explore – consider it a city-wide scavenger hunt.

This year, the Year of the Boar, they (still anonymously) intend to set out 2,000 glass orbs, medallions, and more for Tacomans to find (you can find a bit more about Tacoma’s Monkeyshines here – https://wearttacoma.com/behind-the-scenes-with-monkeyshines/).

But, never forget the first, second and third rule of Monkeyshines: Take only one. Leave surprises for others to find.

However you celebrate, or even if you don’t, at least you might know a bit more about the events and mementos you only seem to see this time of year.

You can see more about ChineseNew Year’s here – https://chinesenewyear.net/.

Photo by Morf Morford
Photo by Morf Morford

For local Lunar celebration events, don’t miss these –

21st annual New Year Celebration

Saturday, Feb. 9, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma

The Asia Pacific Cultural Center presents its annual New Year Celebration Feb. 9 at the Tacoma Dome. This year, the event has a focus on the beautiful islands and culture of Hawaii. There will be more than 90 booths of cultural arts from many countries, food drinks and retail booths, as well as games and crafts.

You can encounter live entertainment from Indonesia, Japan, China, Hawaii, Guam, Philippines, Korea, Thailand, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vietnam, Cambodia, Okinawa, Micronesia, India, Tokelau, Burma, Taiwan, Pakistan, Tahiti, Laos, Hmong, Mongolia, Singapore, the Micronesia Federated States and more.

It is all free and open to everyone.

For details; www.asiapacificculturalcenter.org/newyear.


Annual Lunar New Year Festival

WHEN: Sunday, February 10, 10 AM – 4 PM

WHERE: On South Yakima Ave, between 38th and 39th streets, and on S 38th between Tacoma and Thompson avenues.

WHAT: Multicultural free event for the community to learn about the different cultures in the Lincoln District. Attendees can enjoy world class cuisine as they experience performances.


Tet New Year: A Celebration of Spring

Saturday, Feb. 16, 1 p.m.

University of Puget Sound, Wheelock Rotunda Upper Marshall Hall

Come celebrate the beginning of the new season with the Vietnamese American Community Association, the Vietnamese Senior Association of Olympia & Vicinity, and sponsored by Tacoma Arts, the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (#LIASE), and Harvest Pierce County. There will be traditional food, a Southeast Asian seed swap to celebrate the coming growing season with Harvest Pierce County, and a lineup of musical and dance performers.

You will also have the chance to participate in fun traditions, such as the distribution of Lucky Money (Lì-xì), feed the red and yellow dancing lions to scare away the bad and bring in the good, and Golden Bamboo walking group will lead all attendees in an interpretive dance that brings back springtime memories from their childhood in Vietnam. Finally, the mic will open up for karaoke!

The event is free and family friendly, but if you take a plate of food donations are greatly appreciated (and it’s extra lucky to donate during Tết).

This will be a wonderful way to celebrate the local season and Tacoma’s unique Vietnamese community heritage.

Free and open to the public.

Info: www.asiapacificculturalcenter.org/newyear


(1*)   The traditional Chinese calendar was developed between 771 and 476 BC, during the Eastern Zhou dynasty. Before the Zhou dynasty, solar calendars were used. The current Chinese calendar is lunisolar, similar to the Hindu and Hebrew calendars.

(2*)   Given that the day is composed of 24 hours, each two hour segment is given to the different signs of the zodiac. The Pig is assigned to govern the time between 9 and 11 pm. According to tradition, this is the time when the Pig is doing what it does best (sleeping and enjoying the sweet life).

In terms of astrology, the hours in which people were born are the second most important facet of their astrology. Even if people were born in any year governed by another animal, the time of their birth may magnify or conflict with their lunar bearings.


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