The year of the fire monkey kicked off with neither bang nor spark.
No fireworks were set off in Shanghai for the year of the monkey due to the strict instructions of the government. Pollution levels being what they are, throwing more soot and smoke into the sky is not considered a good idea. On New Years days before the ban, the smoggy skies were filled with colorful explosions. A former Shanghai resident quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald recalls:
“There are so many fireworks – professional grade, being lit at street level with no mortar – that it snows ash, constantly. You can spot the locals because they’re either lighting the fireworks or running down the sidewalk, with helmets and goggles on, ducking and diving as if they were on sniper alley.”
Setting off fireworks (放鞭炮 fàng biān pào) may have been banned this time, but whilst the start of the year wasn’t particularly incendiary, this being the year of the fire monkey we can expect things to heat up pretty soon.
Chinese Zodiac – Year of the Monkey
For those unfamiliar with how the Chinese Zodiac (生肖 shēng xiào) system works, a little background. Depending on the year you are born, you are assigned one of 12 animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog or pig. In addition to your animal, you are also assigned one of five elements, wood, fire, earth, metal, or water. This year, 2016, is the year of the monkey. It also falls within the 12-year cycle of the fire element. This means that this year is the year of the fire monkey!
What Happens in the Year of the Fire Monkey?
The characteristics of the monkey are cheekiness, cleverness wit and courage. Fire element is charecterized as being passionate, resilient, dynamic and determined. So, prepare yourself for a passionately cheeky, dynamically clever, resiliently witty and determinably courageous year!
The Last Time This Happened…
Elements and animals team up together just once every 60 years. The last year of the monkey was in 1956, a tumultuous year at the height of the cold war which saw the unsuccessful Hungarian uprising making headlines all over the world. Two fire monkey years ago, in 1896, was less dramatic perhaps but still eventful. Abyssinia and Italy made peace, and New Zealand held its first public screening of a motion picture. The USA also constructed it’s 25th car! Going back even further, 1776, another fire monkey year, was when the USA became independent from Britain. With all this behind us, we wonder what 2016 will bring. For monkeys, it could be important to take care..
Bad News for Monkeys
You may think you’re in luck if you were born in the year of the monkey, but think again. During the year of your animal, your 本命年 běnmìngnián, you are thought to offend Tai Sui, the god of aging. It’s generally best to lie low and stay out of trouble. Avoid making major decisions, and take extra care when handling sharp objects (your wit, dear monkey, should be cutting enough). The forces of evil can be combatted by the wearing of red underwear. Of course, red is an unlucky color for monkeys, so this could be a double edged sword. We suggest making underwear choices after serious consultation with religious authorities.
But You’re In Good Company
Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian, Will Smith, Hugh Jackman, Celine Dion, Daniel Craig, Owen Wilson, Shaggy, Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, Ian Curtis, George Lucas, Jimmy Page, not to mention Miley Cyrus, were all born in the year of the monkey. If they can get through this year, so can you.
How to Bring in the New Year
Just like in the west, it’s traditional stay up late (守夜 shǒu yè) on New Year’s Eve to welcome in the new year. During the Spring Festival, 春運 – Chūnyùn, most Chinese people will have returned from where they work to their families (回老家 huí lǎo jiā ), causing some of the biggest migrations in human history.
Chinese people will clean the house to sweep away evil spirits, and welcome the return of the extended family with a sumptuous meal.
Expats will crowd into smokey sports bars and wander home (steadily or otherwise) past the police maintaining order and the temples filled with late night worshippers awaiting the sound of the new year bell.
Interested in learning more about Chinese culture and Chinese holidays, read more on our post about The Dragon Boat Festival, on ancient Chinese legends, or on how to celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival.
From the team at Hutong School, we wish you 恭喜发财 gōng xǐ fā cái! wealth and prosperity, and a Happy Chinese New Year 新年快乐！Xīnnián kuàilè!