12 February 2013

The Year of the Snake


I may not be in China but there is a significant population of Chinese or, at least, the descendants of Chinese people here in Cambodia, so the weekend saw celebrations throughout the country to welcome in the year of the snake.

In fact, preparations for Chinese New Year started a couple of weeks ago, when decorations began appearing in shops and outside houses. Windows and doors were adorned with red and gold posters, showing messages of happiness, wealth and good fortune, and red lanterns were hung all about.

According to Chinese legend, the colour red is supposed to scare away the Nian, a mythical beast that would arrive on the first day of the new year to eat crops and livestock, as well as villagers and their children. Red also symbolises joy, truth, virtue and sincerity – good qualities to emphasise at the beginning of a new year.

On Saturday I watched a local businessman as he lit a fire in a small firepot outside his office. He burned red and gold paper posters, then a bundle of fake money – or, at least, I assume ti was fake. I doubt even a prosperous man would burn real money and I have seen these same traditions in Peru, where people burnt offerings of small replica cars, houses and money in the hope of obtaining such things in the coming year.

Yesterday, on the first day of the year of the snake, many businesses paid lion dance troupes to perform symbolic rituals both inside and outside their premises, to banish evil spirits and to welcome in good luck for the coming year. The local troupes were doing good business!

My Chinese horoscope for the year of the snake tells me that, if I pay attention to the details this year – ‘measure twice, cut once’ – I will have a successful year, especially professionally. Sounds good to me! 

May the snake bring us all success, good health and much happiness.