Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快樂!
It is the year of monkey according to the Chinese zodiac of 12-year cycle, i.e. it marks those monkeys amongst us 12, 24, 36 or n*12 years old. I have been receiving various happy new year e-cards last couple of days from overseas, with "monkey theme" all over the place. Bye bye the sheep, and welcome the monkeys.
Here is a English link that explains Chinese zodiac and its origins - The Wonders of the Zodiac. There is actually a better link on the story itself (and closer to the story that I've been told since I was young) - Tale of the Zodiac Animals. Notice the differences - one story says it is Buddha, the enlightened one in Buddhism, and another story says it is the Jade Emperor (玉皇大帝), the top-of-rank in Taoism derived Chinese folk religion, who called for the race of animals. Either way, those "religion" influences make the age of those zodiac animals much less than it sounds, as we know that neither Buddhism nor Taoism were prosperous in Chinese history for more than 2,000 years. That makes the history of these stories even more recent. I would actually be interested to find out the actual origin of these folk stories - anyone got any idea?
And so far I have not sense a bit of Chinese New Year atmosphere here in Australia. Last night, the Chinese New Year Eve, Vivian and I were supposed to join Vivian's HK-originated family friends to have dinner together, except that New Year Eve dinner normally starts close to mid-night so you can finish in the new year. Since I am coming to work today (not public holiday in Australia!) so I thought, well, maybe I would take a nap at 9pm and wake up at 11pm to go to their place. And then you can probably guess the story - the next thing I know when I woke up - hey, it is bright outside! Welcome to the new year. D'oh.