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2013: The Year of the Snake

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[Python.], Digital ID 807518, New York Public LibraryPython

According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, 2013 is the Year of the Snake. In the Chinese zodiac, the snake is equivalent to the Taurus in Western tradition. February 10th, 2013 to January 30th, 2014 will mark the Year of the Snake.

In the Chinese zodiac calendar, the snake is the sixth animal and symbolizes grace and calmness — it is introspective, cunning, and modest, but also mysterious, deceptive, and possessive. Those born in 2013, 2001, 1989 or any 12-year multiple are born into the Year of the Snake and may share these personality traits.

The snake is known to bring bad omen, at least in the Western tradition: the snake/serpent tempting Adam and Eve in the Bible; Medusa with snake hair in Greek mythology; or the "Hydra," a many-headed serpent in Greek mythology.

Personally, I am not a big fan of snakes (a.k.a. Ophidiophobia: fear of snakes), so looking at these pictures were a bit startling. But I do confess, one of my favorite snake movies is Snakes on a Plane starring Samuel L. Jackson. (Also check out Snakes on a Train!)

Copper-Bellied Snake., Digital ID 807697, New York Public LibraryCopper-Bellied SnakeFor Chinese New Year, some people may host special dinners on the eve of February 9 to mark a new year of happiness and prosperity. From America to Australia, Chinese New Year is widely celebrated and has a history that can be traced back to Ancient China.

This is an exciting moment for family, friends, and the community — reunions, gatherings, greetings, and feasts abound. In major cities with large Chinese communities, the streets are often filled with parades of firecrackers, dancing, and singing, and are illuminated by the color red, which represents fortune in Chinese culture.

Snake in Chinese Character (Shé in Mandarin-Chinese)Snake in Chinese Character (Shé in Mandarin-Chinese)Depending on the parents/caregivers, children may be given an unofficial day off from school. Many will also receive a lucky red envelope, known as hóngbāo, which contains cash to ensure prosperity for the receiver and the giver (a family member or family friend who is married). Both will greet each other with this phrase: gōngxǐ fā cái (恭喜發財; in Mandarin-Chinese which translates as congratulations and be prosperous).

Hóngbāo (Red Envelope in Chinese)Hóngbāo (Red Envelope in Chinese)According to an Ancient Chinese Mythology, the animals were competing to meet the Jade Emperor; the years of the calendar would be named after them and the order of their arrival to the banquet. In the mythology, it states that the "cat" overslept and did not make it to the party and hence not listed in the calendar. Here is a list of the order of animals:

  • Rat: 2008, 2020, 2032 ...
  • Ox: 2009, 2021, 2033 ...
  • Tiger: 2010, 2022, 2034 ...
  • Rabbit: 2011, 2023, 2035 ...
  • Dragon: 2012, 2024, 2036 ...
  • Snake: 2013, 2025, 2037 ...
  • Horse: 2014, 2026, 2038 ...
  • Ram: 2015, 2027, 2039 ...
  • Monkey: 2016, 2028, 2040 ...
  • Rooster: 2017, 2029, 2041 ...
  • Dog: 2018, 2030, 2042 ...
  • Pig: 2019, 2031, 2043 ...

[Coachwhip Snake.], Digital ID 807551, New York Public LibraryCoachwhip SnakeAt NYPL, to express our enthusiasm for the Chinese New Year traditions, we've highlighted some resources relating to the Chinese New Year and to snakes in general!

As they say in Mandarin Chinese, xin nian kuai le! (shin nee-ahn kwai la) 新年快樂! — Happy New Year!

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