Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Year of the . . . Whatever!

800px-Chinese_new_year_singapore_2015One amusing aspect of Chinese New Year 2015 is the lack of consensus over which zodiac animal is being celebrated.

Is it the Year of the Sheep?

The Year of the Goat?

The Year of the Mountain Gazelle?

Ambiguity over the meaning of the Mandarin word “yang,” which can apply to goats, sheep, or any other hooved, grass-eating animal that bleats, is apparently responsible for the confusion. However, most Chinese seem unfazed by the distinction, accepting either animal as a symbol of plenitude and good fortune as well as dismissing the idea that a child born in a Sheep (or Goat) year will be meek, mild, and lacking in drive–a follower, not a leader. (I don’t subscribe to that belief either–one of my close friends was born in such a year, and she’s successful and highly motivated!)

So choose your beastie, and a very Happy New Year to Ewe! Or should that be Happy  New Year, Kid? Or Happy New Year, Deer?

In any case, have a great one!



Wuthering Hearts: Brontës and Valentines

250px-The_Brontë_Sisters_by_Patrick_Branwell_Brontë_restoredOne of my favorite Valentine’s Day stories centers on the Brontë sisters. So much tragedy surrounds the brief lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne that it’s a pleasant change of pace to read about the good things that happened to them. One of which was their friendship with William Weightman, their father’s charming young curate. (Many speculate that at least one of the sisters was secretly in love with him.)

weightmnAlthough Weightman succumbed to a cholera epidemic in 1842, he brightened the Brontës’ lives during his time in Haworth. One of the nicest things he did was to send Valentines to the sisters and their friend Ellen Nussey, on hearing that none of them had ever received one. Weightman even walked ten miles to Bradford to post them anonymously, though the girls soon discovered the ruse–and returned the favor by writing their benefactor the following poem:

‘A Rowland for your Oliver˛ˇ

We think you’ve justly earned;
You sent us each a valentine,
Your gift is now returned.
We cannot write or talk like you;
We’re plain folks every one;
You’ve played a clever trick on us,
We thank you for the fun.
Believe us when we frankly say
(Our words, though blunt are true),
At home, abroad, by night or day,
We all wish well to you.
And never may a cloud come o’er
The sunshine of your mind;
Kind friends, warm hearts, and happy hours,
Through life we trust you’ll find.
Where’er you go, however far
In future years you stray,
There shall not want our earnest prayer
To speed you on your way. . .

Victorian Valentine: The message reads "My Dearest Miss, I Send Thee a Kiss"
Victorian Valentine: The message reads “My Dearest Miss, I Send Thee a Kiss”

So while Valentine’s Day has come to be associated mainly with couples, other kinds of love are also worth celebrating on February 14. Whether single or attached, no one is ever the worse for being loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Candlemas!

candlemasMost of us today probably associate February 2 with Groundhog Day. But the date is also associated with the ancient holiday of Candlemas, marking the purification of the Virgin Mary. For some, Candlemas also marks the true end of the Christmas holidays, when the Christmas decorations and greenery would be taken down and plants more appropriate to the season set in their place. So those of us who left our Christmas trees up late this year? Can rest easy in the knowledge that we’re in good company!

Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve

Down with the rosemary and bays,
           Down with the mistletoe ;
       Instead of holly, now up-raise
           The greener box (for show).

       The holly hitherto did sway ;
           Let box now domineer
       Until the dancing Easter day,
           Or Easter’s eve appear.

       Then youthful box which now hath grace
           Your houses to renew ;
       Grown old, surrender must his place
           Unto the crisped yew.

       When yew is out, then birch comes in,
           And many flowers beside ;
       Both of a fresh and fragrant kin
           To honour Whitsuntide.

       Green rushes, then, and sweetest bents,
           With cooler oaken boughs,
       Come in for comely ornaments
           To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift ; each thing his turn does hold ;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.

–Robert Herrick (1591-1674)