The Great Race

By Ahmed Wafi

Ever wondered why the Pig is the last year of the Chinese Zodiac cycle?

With Chinese New Year’s coming up, the year of the Dog comes to an end and 2019 dawns the year of the Pig. Chinese mythology states that people born in the year of the Pig are realists filled with energy and enthusiasm even when performing boring jobs.

The year of the Pig marks the end of the 12 zodiac Chinese years which means that 2020 marks the beginning of the cycle with the year of the Rat. For those who are unfamiliar with how the cycle works, Chinese folklore states that the order of the cycle was decided by The Great Race. A race that saw animals line up to see who would make it to the finish line where the Jade Emperor awaited.

The first 12 animals would be a part of the Zodiac while the others would miss out. The race started on one side of a river and the finishing line was on the other. The Pig was the 12th animal to finish because apparently, he got hungry and decided to have a meal. After eating, he got sleepy and thought it was the right time to take a nap. Well at least we know the Pig does what he wants when he wants.

After explaining himself to the Jade Emperor at the finishing line, the Pig went back to sleep.

There was a 13th animal that was the Cat, who was stabbed in the back by his good friend the Rat (which is why cats always chase rats today). They were both riding on the Ox across the river when halfway through, the Cat was pushed over and left to fend for herself.

The 14th animal to finish was the Elephant. The big hearted Elephant actually saved the Cat from drowning and brought her to the finishing line before crossing the line himself. Both animals though missed out on a placing in the zodiac signs.

Those born in the year of the Pig are known to be most compatible with those born in the year of Tiger, Rabbit and Goat. Mythology also dictates that they are least compatible with the Snake and the Monkey. The numbers 2,5 and 8 are known to be lucky numbers while the colours yellow, gray and brown are the ones they should look out for.

Numbers that are considered unlucky are 1,7 and 9 with blue and green also being unlucky.

Now that we’ve got a brief understanding of the year of the Pig, note that the Chinese culture has quite a few taboos during Chinese New Year. Here are some of them!

1. Do not clean the house
The day before the festival, Chinese families will usually sweep away the bad luck out of their houses but are warned against doing so during the actual celebration. This is to avoid sweeping away the good luck!

2. Do not break any ceramics or glass
Apart from the obvious reason that it will create a mess that you would have to clean up (which would force a person to violate taboo #1 and #2). Any breaking of glass or ceramics is thought to break one’s connection with fortune and prosperity.

3. The gift of time is not a gift
Generally, Chinese tradition encourages giving gifts when visiting relatives. After all, it’s the thought that counts! However, there are certain gifts that you should not gift to your Chinese friends celebrating the New Year including clocks. Gifting clocks are seen as a sign of paying last respects to a person. In fact, you should never gift a clock to your Chinese friends regardless of what time of the year it is!

3a. No negativity
In particular, no negative words. This is believed to jinx oneself and bring misfortune to oneself and their families.

5. Avoid any altercations and tears
During the New Year, friends and relatives that might have had bad blood in the past will come together to resolve things peacefully. This is to ensure a smooth transition into the New Year. Unless you absolutely have to, try not to cry but if a child is crying, it’s best to not punish them.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

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