The new year officially arrives for many Asian cultures with the new moon late Sunday night and that has many wondering, according to astrological lore, what the Year of the Snake actually means.
The Year of the Snake follows the Year of the Dragon in that system’s 12-year cycle.
Going all the way back to Adam and Eve, the cold-blooded and scaly snake has developed a bad reputation.
Every year has its ups and downs, but those years associated with the snake have had some extreme lows, notably the attack on New York’s World Trade Centre in 2001 and the Tiananmen Square protests and mass killings in Beijing in 1989.
But not everyone thinks badly of the Year of the Snake
"They are swift, can be quick, like the economy," said Anita Lau, as she sold stuffed- animal snakes at Aberdeen Mall in Richmond.
"Usually, Year of Snake people born are smart, intelligent, a little cunning."
Feng Shui master Sherman Tai agrees, although he adds that every year is also influenced by an accompanying cycle of the ancient elements. This is not just the Year of the Snake, it’s the Year of the Water Snake.
"It’s very intelligent, calm, patient, waiting for the right time before they attack,” said Tai. “For Year of the Snake, [you] need to wait for right timing."
Tai said it is a year particularly marked by fluctuations.
“From May to August is right timing for changes to investment, study, love and romance, all these kind of things."
Tai also said the come autumn, some unpredictable things might happen.
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Sweep Kitchen Floor and Wash Kitchen Floor
I had noted in my daytimer to sweep and wash the kitchen floor by February 1. It would be bad luck if I did it on February 2, Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve! I'd be sweeping out the good luck from home! Likewise for dumping the dirty water!
Garbage/Recycle Day Taboos
Two years ago, we lived in a house with alternating Garbage Collection and Recycle Day on Thursdays. That year, Chinese New Year's Day fell on a Thursday Garbage Collection Day! Aye-Yah! You should have seen my hubby's look of sheer amazement (or horror?) as I pointed out that by January 20, 2011 we needed to pitch whatever needs to go into the garbage collection, and that on February 3, 2011 we must keep any garbage in the house! Well, we've since moved into a condo with fabulous daily recycling program. Guess what we're doing on Friday February 8, 2013 when it's Recycle Day at our new place? Hint: No garbage goes out Saturday as that's New Year's Eve in 2013 and tossing out your garbage is equivalent to tossing out your good luck!
Hair Cut Appointment before Chinese New Year's Eve
This subject is always a huge bone of contention as one ponders when is the ultimate last day you can slot your hair cut appointment into a packed agenda, as it's considered bad luck to have it done too close to Chinese New Year. You'll sever your good luck! Yes, there are chances of accidents, where you get snipped and not your hair! Keeping all this in mind, I set my hair appointment with my amazing stylist, Guy Krouse at Salon Vivace for last Thursday so I'd be ready for the Chinese New Year's prep tours and of course, the two banquets: Chinese New Year's Eve 11-course banquet on February 9 and the inaugural Lantern Festival 9-course banquet on February 23rd
No Showering on Chinese New Year's Eve
It's bad luck to wash your hair and have a shower! If you're active and go to the gym, this one can be a challenge as nobody wants to go to school or work stinking like a skunk! Apparently, in the good old days, most Chinese villages lacked plumbing, whereas in Toronto, we have great plumbing! Try telling your mom this one. Anyway, I and other Chinese friends just go to the gym and not inform mom about showering after that vigorous gym class! The other solution: not go to the gym just prior to New Year's Eve and be stressed out from skipping your workout! Hubby could barely contain his laughter when I informed him about this superstition and the angst behind it.
Get Chef Knives Sharpened Before Chinese New Year's Eve
I called before dropping off my chef's knife at Nella Cucina. They promised that I'll get it back within a week, before it's Chinese New Year's Eve! Whew! Superstition: knives sever good luck, so you'd want to sharpen before it's the new year and retain good luck in the new year! Aye-Yah!
Bad Luck to Start with Broken Crockery
I must pitch any broken dishes, cups, plates and any other crockery as it's considered to be "bad luck" to start a new year with broken stuff. After my Sunday tour, I'll replace a few chipped cups while picking up Green Chopsticks for my banquets. Aye-Yah! So much to do, and so little time!
Replace Dead Houseplants with Fresh, Live Plants!
It's inauspicious having dead plants as you're carrying over the bad luck from one year to the next! So I better swing by one of those Chinatown shops on Sunday after my tour and replace one of the bamboo shoots in my planter to ensure a lucky Year of the Rabbit! Agghhh!
Settling Debts in order to Start New Year with a Clean Slate
It's funny how Chinese New Year follows right after the holiday season of gift spending, as it make settling debts a tad challenging... Sigh, it got to be done, otherwise you hear your ancestors murmuring about the bad luck for the new year!
Exchange Old Bills for Crisp New Bills at the Bank
Bank tellers in Toronto's second Chinatown banks (Spadina Ave/Dundas St W) or other areas wouldn't blink an eye when an Asian patron request for crisp new $5, $10 and $20 bills. It's considered good luck having crisp new bills in the pair of Lie See (Lucky Money) you hand out to little kids and any unmarried adult siblings. I must also buy more of those red/gold envelopes. Sigh!