Ginny here. In mid January, the U.S. Postal Service began celebrating the 2014 Lunar New Year by issuing this elegant Year of the Horse Forever stamp by illustrator Kam Mak of Brooklyn, NY. The Year of the Horse stamp is the seventh of 12 stamps in the current Celebrating Lunar New Year series.
Beautiful postage is only the beginning of this longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. Also known as the Spring Festival, with life just beginning to stir in the grip of winter, legend has it that Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and he named a year after each one. People born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality. It’s Chinese year 4712, Year of the Horse, which begins this year on January 31.
Chinese months are lunar, beginning on the new moon and the New Year celebrations continue for two weeks until the 15th day of the month. That’s the night of the Lantern Festival, with a parade under the full moon and the famous dragon dance—a dragon made of paper, silk and bamboo that can wind for 100 feet.
Lots of the traditions that we associate with New Year’s celebrations in the west are similar for Chinese New Year. On New Year’s Day, I mentioned first footing on Hogmanay in Scotland to bring luck INTO the house. In China, we’re cautioned not to sweep the floor on New Year so we won’t sweep good luck OUT of the house. Fireworks and noise makers are meant to ward off bad energy and bad luck everywhere—they scare off the monsters and chase the winter away.
People born in Horse years are bright, cheerful, popular, and fun loving. They find people and crowds exciting, and love parties. Usually they don’t need to struggle in order to succeed and obtain the fine things life has to offer. Rembrandt, Harrison Ford, Aretha Franklin, Chopin, Sandra Day O’Connor, and President Theodore Roosevelt were born in the year of the horse.
Horses have a carefree nature and need ample room for self expression. Horses will tell you exactly what is on their mind; they are frank and dislike hidden agendas. So this is the time for issues to be out in the open, especially with family members. 2013 belonged to the Snake so the time for secrecy was then, not now—everybody knows they keep dark secrets at Slytherin!
Remember my Lammas altar with a horse for Epona, a Celtic goddess who brings abundance and inspiration? Speaking of inspiring horses (we were, weren’t we?) The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steffvater is worth a read. Imagine trying to tame and ride a wildly magical sea horse with the instincts of a shark, for the most dangerous race in the world. Jessica recommended this fascinating, original retelling of the ancient legend of water horses and the images have stuck with me for weeks.
It’s easy to see why Horse year is considered fortunate, bringing luck and good things. Magical Horse has supernatural powers, is heroic, strong, and can even fly! The Chinese Goddess Kwan Yin’s white celestial cloud horse soars through the heavens bringing peace and blessings.
Happy New Year! Don’t let it pass without a nod. We’ll be wearing red and toasting new beginnings with rice wine. How will you celebrate? Wear red, of course, and you could send good luck to the horses at Whatcom Humane Society by making a donation.
When you’re done with your good deed, sit back, sip some rice wine in the Deep Winter and enjoy these wonderful images of Chinese New Year, celebrated around the world.