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February 2003: Chinese New Year

This year, the first day of February also marks the first day of the Chinese New Year. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which is strictly seasonal, the Chinese calendar employs both seasonal and lunar cycles. The second new moon after the December solstice brings in the New Year, with the date coming anywhere from January 21 to February 19. In 2003 the second new moon of winter falls on February 1, ushering in the Year of the Goat (or Ram).

Purportedly, the calendar has been in use since the Emporer Huang Ti introduced it around 2600 B.C. There are twelve animals associated with the Chinese calendar, and it's believed that a person born during the year of a certain animal possesses that animal's characteristics. A story says that these twelve animals gathered around the Buddha to say goodbye to him when he departed from Earth.

The New Year celebration promotes peace and happiness. It lasts until the arrival of the full moon this February 16, the two weeks spent in enjoying thanksgiving and reunion with family, ancestors and community. The Lantern Festival finalizes the New Year activities.

On February first, the first day of the Chinese New Year, Jupiter, the largest planet of the solar system, comes closest to Earth for the year. At its biggest and brightest, this planet easily outshines every star, lighting up the night sky from sundown to sunup. According to astrology, Jupiter's influence is particularly "jovial" (from Jove, Jupiter's other name), so let us hope that the king planet's bright and beautiful countenance shines upon us all during the Year of the Goat!

copyright 2003 by Bruce McClure

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