I happened to be fortunate enough to stay at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and this is where I encountered a beautiful free exhibit at the conservatory. At the time of my visit they had constructed a fabulous Chinese garden to celebrate the year of the sheep/goat. I am a Monkey according to Chinese Astrology and quite a curious being. The garden intrigued me and I wondered what does all of this mean ? People spoke about a Chinese New Year and Spring Festival and I thought, it must be a very important if the Bellagio has transformed the entire Casino for the celebration. The conservatory was very close to the entrance of my hotel room and I had no choice but to walk past it each and every time I left my room.
Here are a few photos that inspired me to learn more about the Spring Festival.
So when I returned to Chicagoland, I wanted to research about the significance of the garden and this is how I stumbled upon a holiday celebrated by over 4 billion people throughout the world. It is called the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. After careful research, I discovered the origins of this special Chinese Holiday. The following is a written a summary of an ancient tale that dates back some say 4000 years. Enjoy !
A 4000 year old mythological tale of the creature from Chinese legends named "Nian".
Every year this beast would return, and in the past many courageous men had tried to defeat him, but they had perished. So on New Year's Eve, all of the villagers young and old would flee high into the mountains and hide .
But the old beggar refused and asked instead if he could stay for one night in the woman's home. He promised that the monster would never come back again. The old woman agreed and fled to the mountaintop. The old gray-haired man prepared for the arrival of the monster. After midnight the monster approached the village and came to the old woman's home. The monster saw three red banners across the old woman's doorway, and many red fire lanterns the old beggar proceeded to light loud firecrackers and the monster named "Nian" was so frightened he ran away back into the ocean.
The next day all of the villagers came out of hiding from the mountain. They found the old beggar was still alive. The old man told all of the villagers how to keep the monster from coming back. The old man explained the monster was afraid of three things the color red, fire and the loud noises from the firecrackers. When the old man finished talking, he disappeared. From this day on, every New Year's Eve, the villagers would paste red couplets, let off firecrackers and light candles and stay awake the entire night to prevent being attacked by the monster known as "Nian". This is how these customs came into being and why the Chinese currently celebrate the Spring Festival known as the Chinese New Year. (Please note the tale above has different variations.)
Spring Festival is celebrated in China and other Asian countries. The Festival begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later. (The lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon)The last day of the festival is known as The Lantern Festival.
This 15 day festival has many layers of traditions and customs. The holiday is the equivalent of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter combined. As we become more accustomed with Asian culture expect this holiday to become more widely recognized and part of the American Fabric.
An ASTROLOGICAL Rarity: Commentary from Christine Arens:
"The Chinese New Year usually begins on the SECOND NEW MOON FOLLOWING THE WINTER SOLSTICE, which for us western astrologers is usually the New Moon of the sign Aquarius. However, there IS a possibility of having TWO New Moons in a single sign (such as this year, with TWO New Moons in Aquarius) – just like there is a possibility of having TWO Full Moons in a single sign. New Moons generally run ‘backward’ through the zodiac, each approximately 1 degree earlier than the previous (more in our summer months, less in winter months); this is usually – but not always – true for Full Moons, due to the eccentricity of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth. This is akin to having a “Blue Moon” – two Full Moons in one month; this is, however, even more rare – two New or Full Moons in a single zodiacal sign. The first New/Full Moon would be at 0 degrees, the second at 29 degrees. So, for 2015 we had this RARE occurrence of Chinese New Year being the THIRD New Moon after the Winter Solstice – because the solstice occurred just 2-1/2 hours before the New Moon at 0:06:29 Capricorn. The next New Moon was 0:08:55 Aquarius (January 20), followed by this New Moon at 29:59:53 Aquarius! This is part of the “quirkiness” of a lunar calendar – every so often you have to throw in an “extra” lunar month to keep the calendar on track!"
Author, Pamela Kokott
Photography, Pamela Kokott
Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Cultural China,Beijing government's official web portal,travel china guide,
The Asian Animal Zodiac:Ruth Q. Sun, ChinaTown San Fransisco.