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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! 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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