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Happy niu year!

January 25th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Today is the first day of the year of the ox! Happy chinese new year to everyone!

[A cow mooing]

The spelling in the subject of this post seems to be very popular this year. The spelling “niu” is the mandarin pinyin romanization of the chinese character 牛 (“niu2“), which means “ox / cow / bull” in chinese. Since it’s pronounced a bit like the word “new”, it offers this funny double meaning of “happy new year” + “happy ox year” combined in one short sentence. Now, the chinese astrology cycles want that ox years repeat every 12 years, so I would be surprised if it was the first time this spelling is being used. If it is, that could signal an increased interest and popularity of chinese traditions among non-chinese speaking communities. Who knows, maybe 12 years ago it would have been much harder to hear anyone express his chinese new year wishes in any indo-european language.

For the dinner of my 除夕(chu2 xi1, new year’s eve), last night I chose to avoid chinese restaurants, and opted for a steak instead, without realizing I was going to eat 20oz of the animal of the year! I wonder if there’s any superstitious caveat around that… I paid a lot of attention in keeping last year’s animal of the year out of my diet, but I might not want to be so careful this year.

Anyway, if you’re interested in learning about the chinese traditions around the lunar new year, the ChineseSession.com blog has done a good job at capturing them. I’m not sure why they list the pinyin for 除夕 as “chu2 xi4”, maybe it’s just a typo, but as far as I know the correct pronunciation is “chu2 xi1”. It would also be interesting to find out if the alternative word 大年夜 (da4 nian2 ye4) is solely used in Taiwan, I couldn’t find any reference on the web. And by the way, you might know that I really dislike the “western” stereotype (I will write more about it in a future post), but nonetheless, don’t miss the second half of their post too.

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