“I was born to catch dragons in their dens and pick flowers
To tell tales and laugh away the morning
To drift and dream like a lazy stream
And walk barefoot across sunshine days”
Sunshine Days and Foggy Nights
As a young child, I remember watching what felt like an endless stream of Godzilla movies shown almost every Sunday afternoon. I was too young to appreciate any of the significance devotees of Godzilla swear are in each Godzilla spectacular, but do recall how each Godzilla flick kept my older brother and my butts firmly implanted in front of the television set, providing some leeway for my mother to clean and cook. Godzilla was not your ordinary, run of the mill monster, no, he was the perfect hybrid of multiple creatures blended into one. And do I even have to comment on Godzilla’s awesome atomic breath. Only in the recesses of my mind would the memories of this creature mesh with the start of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon. Godzilla is a Japanese creation that has absolutely nothing to do with the significance of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar. But therein lies the way my brain functions in the early morning pre- coffee hour, and thus my launch into learning about the Year of the Dragon.
The Chinese New Year is complimented by an animal zodiac which is determined by a 12 year cycle. Each animal in the zodiac carries its own particular attributes and strengths, along with containing some of the five elements spotlighted in the Chinese zodiac, fire, wood, earth, metal and water. Traditionally in Chinese culture, the Dragon is revered as a symbol of good fortune and power that is made up of the elements of water, wood, and the earth. Unlike in the U.S. where the dragon is generally thought of as a monster to be conquered, Chinese tradition positions the Dragon in almost divine esteem. Individuals whose birth year fall under that of the Dragon are said to be passionate, confident, fearless and innovative people. This year of the Dragon is said to be one that will be marked with a spirit of perseverance and progression.
As someone who does not follow the Chinese zodiac, I was intrigued by this traditional Chinese approach to the calendar. Specifically, the connection between the different animals in the Chinese zodiac in relation to the five Chinese elements. Most cultures, I think, have a general understanding of the elements, albeit, a different approach, respect, and appreciation for each of the elements. The Chinese calendar flips this basic understanding of these elements and expands it in ways that are both thought-provoking and fresh. For followers of the Chinese calendar/zodiac, the relationship between these two entities not only provides a glimpse into the personality of bearer of the specific animal/element in question, but also provides a roadmap for the year.
While I don’t necessarily gel with everything the Chinese calendar/zodiac puts forth, it was entertaining to see how colorful the celebration of the New Year is among the various Chinese communities in the U.S. and abroad. Much like our New Year celebration here in the U.S., the Chinese New Year celebration is one filled with anticipation and determination. The spirit of perseverance and progression that is said to mark the Year of the Dragon is a spirit I believe is required in the ever-changing political, social, economic, and environmental landscape that is being experienced around the globe. May this New Year provide the world with an abundance of the perseverance and progression that it is so desperately crying out to receive.