I just returned late on Sunday, February 14th from New York City where I had the opportunity to pay a quick visit to Chinatown for lunch and shopping. While many of you may have been planning something romantic for Valentines Day Sunday with your sweetie, in Chinatown, people of all ages were gathering in the streets by late morning to begin celebrating the start of the Chinese New Year.
Several of the streets in the heart of Chinatown were blocked to vehicular traffic in anticipation of a noontime parade. These newly created ‘pedestrian zones’ allowed friends and families to safely gather and watch as scores of confetti firecrackers were set off in celebration. The air became thick with bits of colorful paper in just a short time as the confetti floated in the light breeze. It did not take long for the streets and sidewalks to become completely blanketed with confetti and streamers.
By sheer luck, I had the good fortune to come across a group of people dressed in Lion costumes who were dancing to the beat of metal drums in front of local businesse and I was able to enjoy a good view of the action. This small scene gave me a taste of how exciting the big Lion and Dragon Dance parades will be that are scheduled to wend their way through the streets of Chinatown on Sunday, February 21st.
February 14th ushered in the start of the Chinese Year of the Tiger, or more specifically, the Year of the Metal Tiger. I was in Chinatown to search for Year of the Tiger goodies to use in a store display window, and I was not disappointed. Key among my purchases was the paper-mache tiger marionette shown above, and the symbolic ‘metal tiger’ pictured below.
The Chinese horoscope is based on the Lunar Chinese calendar which has a sixty year cycle. Throughout this cycle, the five main elements that make up all matter – Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth - are combined with the twelve animal signs of Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Lamb, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
During the complete cycle, each animal sign (sometimes also referred to as the twelve Earth branches) repeats five times, and each repetition is influenced by a different main element: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. The Tiger is third in the cycle, and is linked with metal this year.
The following is a listing of Tiger years from 1902 up until the present year:
Water Tiger: 1902 and 1962
Wood Tiger: 1914 and 1974
Fire Tiger: 1926 and 1986
Earth Tiger: 1938 and 1998
Metal Tiger: 1950 and 2010
The Tiger is a natural born leader and symbolizes power, passion and daring; they are by their nature courageous, active, and self-assured. Rebellious, dynamic, and unpredictable, they can pounce in an instant. People born in the Year of the Tiger are generally well liked because of their charming personalities. They are optimistic, passionate and independent; quick tempered but considerate.
Tigers are fond of competitions and simply cannot pass up a challenge. They may appear cool yet can be unpredictable. It is unwise to underestimate their reactions, which can be unpredictable and of the moment. They have a strong sense of their own dignity, and are intelligent, alert, and farsighted. Tigers are apt strategists but they also can have a suspicious nature and often act hastily.
Mood swings are common as Tigers love excitement and become restless if they are bored or not in control. Tigers can jump to conclusions hastily and express frustrations with temper tantrums. But people born in the Year of the Tiger are also straightforward, loyal and dutiful. They can be playful and full of enthusiasm, sentimental and optimistic, and often prefer solitary moments to chaotic ones. Tigers love to travel to exotic places and fill their homes with exotic treasures from far-flung places that they have visited. They like to spend money, and also to share it. They can be quite impulsive spenders.
Tigers are fast learners, need a constant challenge and are easily bored. They often work alone but love to be surrounded at home and in social situations with family and friends and have a good time. Critisism or negative comments from friends or colleagues can cause tigers to be depressed for a time before bouncing back to their energetic selves.
Some famous Tigers:
Mary Queen of Scots
Ludwig von Beethoven
And, I blush to say that I too am a Tiger; in fact, a Metal Tiger. Chinese people often ask each other under what sign they were born, which is a polite way to gauge someone’s approximate age without bluntly asking how old someone is. When the sign alone is given, there may be some latitude for guessing. But when the sign is given with the element attached, the answer is obvious.
Did I mention that another trait of Tigers is to be open and frank ? I guess I just proved that !