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  • Writer's pictureDr. Mel Baker-Thompson

Happy Chinese (And Tibetan) New Year

Welcome to a new solar year. Most of us at this point have dispensed with the making of resolutions, having experienced a disappointing pattern of unfulfilled goals and wishes over the years.

We all know by now that the secret to success is having a plan - and executing it. In the execution of the plan - particularly when we are engaging in the internal work of self-improvement - we can bump up against some of the deepest and most uncomfortable parts of the story.

If you're looking to change something in your life, your self, you must be prepared to let go of part of yourself that's familiar and it's own form of death. The letting go of a previous identity and the emergence into a new one.

The understanding of this existential axiom is either the key to your success... or the truth that makes you remain in your comfort zone.

The process of renewal necessarily involves the mourning of that which is released. If you have goals and intentions set for this year, engage with yourself lovingly, intimately and tenderly. You're giving birth to a new version of you.

How you treat yourself along the way determines which version of you shows up at the end of the cycle.

The Dalai Lama delivered an invitation to dive into compassion in his Tibetan New Year address. Listen as he guides his followers into a deeper meaning of "new year observances"

Twenty Things You Didn't Know About the Chinese New Year

  1. Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival - In China, you'll hear it being called "chunjie", or the Spring Festival. It's still very wintry, but the holiday marks the end of the coldest days. People welcome spring and what brings it along: planting and harvests, new beginnings and fresh starts.

  2. There's no set date for Chinese New Year - According to the Lunar calendar, the Spring Festival is on January 1st and lasts until the 15th (the full moon). Unlike Western holidays, such as Christmas, when you try to calculate it with the solar (Gregorian) calendar the date is all over the place. Chinese New Year ranges from January 21st to February 20th. In 2019, it occurred on February 5th. The lunar calendar is still really important in China, even though it has officially moved to the Gregorian calendar like the rest of the world. All traditional holidays and days, such as the Winter Solstice are celebrated. Some people still calculate their birthdays and ages according to the lunar calendar!

  3. It is a day for praying to the Gods - The Spring Festival was originally a ceremonial day to pray to Gods for a good planting and harvest season. As an agrarian society, the harvest was everything. People also prayed to their ancestors, as they were treated as Gods (see Mulan for reference).

  4. And fighting off monsters - But the myths are much more interesting. According to one legend, there was a monster named Nian. It would come about every New Year's Eve. Most people would hide in their homes. The next day, people celebrated their survival by setting off even more firecrackers. And that practice became a crucial part of the Spring Festival.

  5. The most fireworks are set off in the world that night - As in the myth about Nian, firecrackers are supposed to scare off monsters and bad luck. So people stay up on Chinese New Year's Eve and set off firecrackers at midnight. In the morning, firecrackers are used again to welcome the new year and good luck. That same night, families also burn fake paper money and printed golden bars in honor of their deceased loved ones.

  6. (But sometimes it's illegal) - Due to safety reasons and concerns for air pollution, many Chinese cities have banned fireworks for 13 years. The ban was lifted in 2006 because of the angry public. If you're in China during this time, you'll probably be able to hear and see the explosions for at least 3 nights.

  7. It is the longest Chinese holiday - The Spring Festival technically lasts for 15 days. But the celebrations start on New Year's Eve (making it 16 days). You can also say that the holiday season starts in (lunar) December with the Laba Festival. That's around 40 days of celebrations.

  8. The Spring Festival causes the largest human migration in the world - The most important part of the Chinese New year is the family reunion. Everyone should come back home for New Year's Eve dinner. But since, in modern China, most elderly parents live in rural villages, the migration back home and to go on vacation is called "chunyun", or Spring Migration.

  9. Singles hire fake boy/girlfriends to take home - You know those nosy relatives during Thanksgiving? It's even worse in China. Especially since having children and passing down the family name is one of the most important parts in Chinese culture. Some desperate singles resort to hiring a fake boyfriend or girlfriend to take home. Those who can't (or don't want to) go home rent themselves out.

  10. No showering, sweeping or throwing out old garbage allowed - Showering isn't allowed on New Year's Day. Sweeping and throwing out the garbage isn't allowed before the 5th. This is to make sure you don't wash away the good luck! On the other hand, there's a day before the Spring Festival dedicated to cleaning. This day is to sweep the bad luck away and make room for the good.

  11. Children receive lucky money in red envelopes - In other cultures, children receive gifts for holidays. Gifts are exchanged during the Spring Festival. But Chinese children receive something else too - red envelopes. Also called red packets, they include money. This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from the elders to the children.

  12. Chinese New Year desserts have special meanings - A lot of cultures have symbolic foods, such as the Yule Log cake. In the Chinese culture, they have tangyuan. When said, it sounds like "tuanyuan", which means reunion; therefore, it is no surprise, it's a popular dessert during Chinese New Year.

  13. There's wine specifically for the Spring Festival - Chinese people love drinking. There's a saying that there's no manners and/or etiquette without wine. This means that you need to have wine for every ceremony, festival or important dinner. There's wine for engagement dinners, weddings, birthdays...and of course, the Spring Festival. With such a rich wine culture, it's no surprise that there is a bunch of drinking games you play.

  14. The Chinese decorate everything red for Chinese New Year - Every family will deck their homes in this color. Do you remember the story about Nian? Firecrackers aren't the only thing that scared the monsters away. Red is also an invaluable weapon and used in nearly all Chinese New Year decorations. The Chinese will hand up red lanterns and strings of (real or fake) chili peppers, paste red paper onto doors and windows, and more!

  15. Every year has a zodiac animal - Western horoscopes include 12 zodiacs, one for each month. There are 12 Chinese zodiacs as well, but the animal is for the entire year. 2019 is the year of the pig. Some of the animals (such as Rat, Snake, Dog, and Pig) aren't normally well-liked in Chinese culture. But as a zodiac, their positive traits are bestowed on people born that year.

  16. Your zodiac year is bad luck - Your benming year is the year of your zodiac animal. And of the 12 year cycle, it is the unluckiest for you. There are multiple explanations for this. The Chinese believe that children can easily be taken by demons. And your benming year is your rebirth year. During this year, your weapon of defense is the color red.

  17. You grow 1 year older on the Spring Festival - In China, you have a "real" age and a "fake" nominal age. The real age is the one we all know about. You grow one year older on your birthday. The nominal age though increases with the Spring Festival. This was the age most people went until recent times.

  18. The New Year greeting in Chinese is "xin nian kuaile" - The phrase literally means "Happy New Year". But in Hong Kong and other Cantonese-speaking regions, it's more common to say "gong hei fat choy". In Mandarin Chinese, it's "gong xi fa cai"- which means "congratulations on the fortune.

  19. Chinese New Year ends with the Latern Festival - The first full moon of the (lunar) year is the Yuanxiao Festival or Lantern Festival. Though family is still important, it's still a night of partying and freedom.

  20. Chinese New Year is celebrated all around the world - One out of every 5 people in the world is Chinese. But this statistic doesn't include the millions of of overseas Chinese and people of Chinese descent. London, England; San Fransisco, USA; Sydney, Australia; all claims to have the biggest Spring Festival celebrations outside of Asia.

A New Year... A New You

The value of detoxification and restoration is inarguable. In the same way you brush your teeth and wash your hair, you absolutely need to cleanse your insides. Imagine never having washed your face for the entirety of your life... now imagine what your gut looks like.

Cleansing takes place in so many ways...from clearing of your mind with meditation and periods of retreat to the cleansing of your body through diet, supplementation, sauna, exercise, plenty of clean water, and rest.

One of the more profound - and easy - ways to clear your energetic field is to burn palo santo. Literally translated as "holy wood" and similar in usage to sage, this fragrant incense fills your home with a sedating, consciousness-expanding sweet, woodsy aroma. It instantly focuses the mind and quiets anxiety.

It is excellent for setting intentions and changing patterns. Learn more about how palo santo can dramatically shift your attention and lower cortisol levels while boosting your own intuitive power and rendering you a happier, clearer being:

Change: The Great Equalizer

As you begin this new solar yer and set your intentions for your personal Evolutions and transformation, remember to frame your thoughts and actions in the positive. Most of us think of that we are going to give up, what we are going to let go of, and with that in mind comes more suffering. Rather, choose to focus on the positive thought or action that will fill the space of that which is being released. Your success rate will be much higher, and you'll enjoy the experience much more along the way.

Renewing Yourself to Life with CBD

I've been enjoying the ways in which CBD has been changing my patients' lives. This past month's success comes in the form of a teenager with ADD/ADHD. This child' parents have reported greater concentration and less use of pharmaceutical medication.

The child reports feeling calmer, more focused, less tired at the end of the day, and better rested.

If you'd like to learn more about this case and how I approach treating pediatric patients with CBD, please contact me at the office to set up a time to meet either in person or by phone.

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