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By Antoine du Rocher

SAN FRANCISCO, 7 FEBRUARY 2009 - The Obama years begin with an economic crisis that reveals to us the bonds that now tie the U. S. to China and the whole world. To draw the heavy burdens to come, President Barack Obama and the people who elected him will need strength, resolve - even stubbornness. And as Obama has at times cited conservative icon Ronald Reagan as a model, perhaps he plans to revive one of Reagan's customs: consulting astrologers. Fortunately for Obama, the Chinese, and perhaps all of us, the auspices are in his favor - both the year of his birth (1961) and the new year just begun are both Chinese Years of the Ox. Gung Hay Fat Choy!.

Chinese New Year began on 26 January and is the most important holiday for Chinese families. It is a time of reunion and thanksgiving. Chinese New Year festivities start with the new moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival. The Lantern Festival seems to have originated in ancient times as a ceremony to usher in the increasing light and warmth of the sun after the winter's cold. In America, one of the most eagerly anticpiated events is the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco.

Named one of the world's top ten parades, the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco is the largest celebration of its kind outside of Asia. Over 100 units participate in the parade, a San Francisco tradition since just after the Gold Rush. Parade highlights include elaborate floats, lion dancers, folk dancers, costumed elementary school groups, marching bands, stilt walkers, Chinese acrobats, and a 201 foot long Golden dragon, ("Gum Lung."). The event also features the newly crowned Miss Chinatown U.S.A. and her court. This year many of the floats and specialty units will feature the theme of the Year of the Ox: 2009.

The Ox is the second animal among the twelve zodiac animals in the Chinese horoscope. The Jade Emperor called all the animals in the world to help him celebrate his departure from earth. When the animals arrived, the Jade Emperor had them all race and the first 12 to cross the finish line would be immortalized in the order they finished. On the day of the race, nearing the end of the course, the tiger, rat and ox led the pack. At a carefully chosen moment, the rat edged past the tiger, distracting him from the race and let the cat into a nearby river. The rat then stole a ride on the ox's back and won the race by jumping off the ox's back.

The lunar sequence was forever sealed in this order: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar.

In ancient China, it was believed that people would have the characteristics of the element and the animal that ruled the year of their birth just as modern astrologists believe that people born under a certain sign of the zodiac will have common characteristics.

People born in the Year of the Ox (1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009) are honest, placid and always considerate. The Ox never acts on a mere whim. He (she) refuses to be influenced by gossip or trivia, and ponders all angles of every situation. Once he has completed a thorough assessment of any situation, he caries his course of action through to the appropriate end. The Ox is a faithful and trustworthy friend and will always be helpful in times of need. Once he has found his partner, he is likely to be completely devoted and loving. Those compatible with the Ox in marriage are the Snake, Rooster and the Rat.

The Roosters acts as a complement to the Ox's steady nature, and is equally reasonable and reliable. The Snake will make the Ox feel safe and secure and happily allows the Ox to arrange their home life. The Rat enjoys the Ox's earnestness and attracts the Ox with its intelligence and sincerity. The Ox also has a tendency to be outspoken and stubborn. If he is provoked, or if his patience is pushed to its limits, his temper is furious and unrelenting.

Famous people born in the Year of the Ox: Whoopi Goldberg, Bruce Springsteen, Colin Powell, Monica Seles, Walt Disney , Hans Christian Anderson, former first lady, Barbara Bush - and President Barack Obama!

Chinese New Year Parade
Saturday, 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Market and Second to Kearny and Jackson
San Francisco

Chinese New Year Community Street Fair
Saturday 10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Grant Avenue from California to Broadway,
Pacific Avenue from Kearny to Stockton Street

Sunday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Washington and Jackson Streets from Kearny to Stockton
San Francisco
Tel: (1) 415 986 13 70

Chinese New Year Parade Web Site

Antoine du Rocher is managing editor of Culturekiosque.com

BOOK TIPS: chosen by the editors as being of interest to Culturekiosque readers.

Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China
By Kang Zhengguo
Susan Wilf (Translator), Perry Link (Introduction)

Hardcover: 544 pages
W. W. Norton (June 2007)
ISBN-10: 0393064670

The Revolution Continues: New Art From China
By The Saatchi Gallery

Hardcover: 272 pages
Rizzoli: (July 2008)
ISBN: 978-0-8478-3206-4

CALENDAR TIP: chosen by the editors as being of interest to Culturekiosque readers.

Salem, Massachusetts

Mahjong: Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection
21 February - 17 May 2009
The Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square (161 Essex St)
Salem, Massachusetts
Tel: (1) 978-745-9500

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