Happy Chinese New Year, that is. Today begins Chinese year 4706, which is the year of the Rat. (Year of the Rat… Hmm, that sounds like it could be a soundbite in a campaign ad.)
When our family goes to a Chinese restaurant, we often amuse ourselves, while waiting for our food, by studying the placemat, which often depicts the Chinese Zodiac. I take it no more seriously than our Western zodiac (according to which I am a Capricorn), but it is fun to figure out which animal corresponds to various members of our family. According to the Chinese calendar, 1962 was the year of the Tiger. However, “authoritative, emotional, courageous, and intense” do not fit me well. Ox would fit me much better: “patient, kind, stubborn, and conservative.”
And tonight I just figured out that I am in fact an Ox. All these years of reading Chinese placemats, I never thought about the fact that my birthday comes shortly before the Chinese New Year. So although I was born in 1962, the year of the Tiger did not begin until February 4 that year.
Of course, real Chinese astrology is much more complex that this (as is Western astrology, for those who take it seriously). One’s “secret animal” is based on the hour of one’s birth, and is thought to represent one’s truest self – which may be quite different from the animal based on the year. If I remember correctly what time I was born, I am a tiger after all. Of course, it does say that the exact time at which each animal begins shifts by the day. So perhaps I am really a rabbit: “Gracious, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, astute, compassionate, flexible. Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, lazy. ”
The placemats at one restaurant not only tell the different animals’ characteristics, but also which animals they will get along well with – and which they should avoid. Supposedly I would have done better to marry a Snake or a Rooster, but I married a Rabbit. Which is the opposite of the Rooster, according to another Chinese astrology site. Not that he seems all that Rabbit-like – though of course his “secret” sign may be quite different (and I have no idea what time of day he was born).
The Ox, I see, is likely to have problems and struggles with Monkeys. Let’s see, both my older sister and my older son are Monkeys. But I would say that on the whole I have gotten along well with both. My younger son, like my husband, is a Rabbit – an excellent match for an Ox, apparently. (Though if I go by time of day, my younger son would be the Monkey, and my older son a Dog.)
Of course, the best part of a Chinese restaurant is the food. My younger son (Rabbit? Monkey?) has become curious about what I am typing, and hearing that today is the Chinese New Year, he wants to celebrate. So perhaps tomorrow we’ll go treat ourselves to some some Chinese food. (Good thing for him that the chicken for sweet and sour chicken is much like chicken nuggets – if you leave out the sweet and sour sauce.)