Welcome the Year of the Dog

A Lunar New Year approaches (this Sunday marks the beginning of the Year of the Dog) - and being the hard-partying multi-culti city we are, we're gearing up for 15 days of dressing up, serious food consumption, and (hopefully) equally serious alcohol consumption (unless we're underage in which case we're just as happy with fireworks and envelopes of money).

The largest Lunar New Year Celebration in Canada goes down this weekend at the Exhibition place. Tickets are 10$ for adults, 8.50$ for teens and seniors, and free for kids under 12 (if you buy tickets online here, you save a buck fifty).

Their website also has a handy Horoscope for the Year of the Dog, taking a global perspective (there are no meetings with dark handsome strangers on the page, but plenty of warning about floods, earthquakes, and financial market predictions). If you know your Chinese sign, those 'scopes are linked to on the left. (Looks like I'm going to be argumentative this year. How is that different from the rest of the time?).

Since I've been looking for an excuse to party lately (January can be sooooo depressing), I've leapt on the bandwagon. I've been cruising the web looking for rites, rituals and traditions to include in the soiree I'm hosting this weekend.

What I've found so far are mainly Chinese traditions, based on puns and homophones - according to Wikipedia (1st link), since "every year there is fish left over" sounds like "be blessed/have profit every year", fish is included in the New Year's reunion dinner and not entirely finished. There is also a practice of putting up pieces of paper with symbols and words for things (like 'prosperity,' 'wealth,' or 'happiness') upside down, because the word for 'upside down' sounds like 'arrives'.

There are those great red envelopes of money, too. I remember going to a Chinese New Year with a friend of mine in the 7th grade and being baffled but pleasantly surprised by some total stranger handing me elegantly packaged cash. A very cool way to start the year.

I can't write in Chinese, so the first one's out, and ponying up for snacks and booze (which hopefully generates some good karma) dents my bank account to much for me to hand out cash to my guests. However, I'm happy to learn that tangerines and oranges are symbols of good luck and wealth, so my guests will enjoy those along with their vitamin C.

Another bonus - it's actually bad to clean up on the first day of the New Year as celebrated as Tet (in Vietnam) - it symbolizes sweeping good luck away. I'm hoping recycling and washing dishes doesn't count.

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