Celebrating the Chinese New Year

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

As a person gets older, the first times dissipate. At the beginning, of course, everything is a first — first step, first word, first tooth, first birthday, first day of school, first night away from home, first date, first kiss, first job, first apartment. When the obvious firsts are gone, there are others to look for, such as first overnight hike, first cross-country trip, first mortgage. And then there are the other firsts that no one should ever have to deal with yet all of us do, such as the death of a loved one.

After the firsts come the seconds and thirds and the ho-hum of having done everything so many times before, that it seems as if there are no firsts left. And yet there are more firsts — at least I hope there are.

What made me think about all this is that just yesterday was the last time I did something for the first time — I celebrated the Chinese New Year.

This Asian holiday is something I’ve never before celebrated, never even considered celebrating. After all, I’m not Chinese or from Chinese ancestry, so it didn’t seem right to be glomming on to another culture’s traditions, but yesterday I was invited to join the celebration by my friend who does have a Chinese heritage. We didn’t do much, just dressed in red and went to a Chinese restaurant, but that seems to be the main way of celebrating — family, friends, and food.

To make sure I didn’t commit any major faux pas, I looked up Chinese New Year and found that the Chinese don’t call this holiday “Chinese New Year,” which makes sense. That’s like us calling our January 1st celebration “American New Year.” They simply call it New Year or Spring Festival. The problem with calling this Lunar New Year a Chinese New Year is that many other Asian countries also celebrate a lunar new year. Luckily, since my friend is of Chinese heritage, my calling it the Chinese New Year (as she did) didn’t offend her.

Anyway, it was nice starting this particular new year by doing something new, and it was it was especially nice celebrating the newness with good friends and good food.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Cheers

I’ve never really celebrated New Year’s because it doesn’t mean that much to me and it’s a relatively arbitrary date. The calendar numbers change, but that’s all. It’s certainly not a universal new beginning. The Chinese New Year this year is on January 22, the Jewish New Year is on September 15, the Tibetan New Year begins on February 21. Various other cultures celebrate their new year on completely different dates.

January 1 is not even the beginning of a new season or of a solar cycle such as a solstice or an equinox. Nor is there any personal demarcation — no black line separates the old from the new. The world is no different today from yesterday, nor are we. We carry the old year with us because we have the same problems, sadnesses, hopes, fears.

Despite all that, last night when the fireworks awakened me at midnight, I felt relieved that the old year was done with and a new year was beginning.

Oddly, 2022 wasn’t that bad. In fact, a lot of it was good, though there were no major milestones to celebrate or times of especial gladness. Still, at midnight, there was that catharsis of letting go of the old.

Perhaps it would have been the same as every other year — just a mild annoyance at being awakened by the fireworks — but yesterday was rather unsettling. I’d accepted an invitation to spend the afternoon with some friends, but somehow the guest list changed to be more of an extended family gathering (their family, not mine), and no one told me. I didn’t feel comfortable — too many people in too confined a space, too many people I had nothing in common with, and too many more chances of catching one of the diseases going around. If I had known about the change ahead of time, I could have graciously made my excuses, but I didn’t find out until I was there. Since it would have been rude for me to turn around and leave, I stayed.

Some of it was nice, some not so nice, and the rest, just . . . ho hum.

In retrospect, it seems a fitting end to yesteryear. Some of the year was nice — I truly did enjoy seeing things grow, but the work did get hard to do, especially with my wonky knees. I also feel bad about my spate of compassion fatigue — it didn’t seem right to just drop people and stop my daily blogging because I couldn’t handle any more grief, mine or anyone else’s, but I didn’t see any other recourse. The rest of the year was unmemorable. To be honest, now that I’m looking back, I don’t know if it was truly unmemorable or if I simply didn’t remember a lot of what happened. (Though perhaps that’s the same thing? Anything memorable that happened would probably have been remembered, right?)

I don’t know what I expect of this year, but I am going into it with the attitude that it is new. A time not to start over so much as to start fresh. Today, when the year has just begun it seems sparkling with promise, as if anything could happen. I’m trying not to let the gray day or my normal realism dim the promise. And who knows — it could be a very good year, not just for me, but for you, too.

Cheers!

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Celebrating My New Year

We are five days into the new year, and it feels a lot like the old year. Nothing has changed except the calendar. There is a lot to be said for a nice, clean, new calendar — it speaks of hope that only good things will fill all those coming days. But as for a new year itself, it seems so arbitrary. It’s not even a universal new beginning. The Chinese New Year this year is February 12, the Jewish New Year is September 6, the Persian New Year is March 21, the Korean New Year is January 12, the Tibetan New Year begins on February 12, and various communities in the Hindu religion have different dates for their celebration.

January 1 is not even the beginning of a new season or of a solar cycle such as a solstice or an equinox. Nor is there any personal demarcation — no black line separates the old from the new. The world is no different today from yesterday, nor are we. We carry the old year with us because we have the same problems, sadnesses, hopes, fears. We don’t simply leave all that behind, along with our old selves, at the chime of the clock on midnight, December 31. We drag the past into the future.

The sun doesn’t count the years. It doesn’t even count the days; from its point of view, there is no sunrise and sunset. It’s always there, always risen.

And so, in a way, if we ignore the calendar aspect of the new year as well as the number we have assigned to it, every day begins a new year. For example, the year beginning today will end on January 5, 2022 rather than on the first. This way of looking at years makes as much sense as the other. Come to think of it, our personal new years begin on our birthday, and that makes even more sense than calendar years. We have an established beginning for our first year We even have an established hour for the beginning of that year.

In my case, at 7:27am one day in the months to come, my personal new year will begin. Of course, the effects will be the same as our western calendar year — there will be no dumping of the previous year’s baggage at 7:26, to begin anew at 7:27. One year flows into the other, with only an occasional event that truly does create us anew at a moment’s notice, such as falling in love, the birth of a child, the death of a spouse. In each of these cases, we are instantly different.

I suppose it’s just as well we drag our baggage along with us from year to year. To leave it behind would also mean leaving the memories behind. I certainly wouldn’t want to wake up every January 1 completely washed clean of the past!

As for the problems we carry with us, ours and the world’s, the only way to stop carrying them is to solve them or to make friends with them.

Unlike most people, last year was not at all a bad year for me. I might not thrive on being a total hermit since I do need some contact with people (which I have been getting), but normally, I don’t go out to eat, don’t do social gatherings, tend to stay away from sick people no matter what their illness might be.

So, come to think of it, this new year being like the old one is rather nice, so whether it started on the first, or starts today, it’s worth celebrating.

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Celebrating the Newness

I’ve never really celebrated the New Year because it doesn’t mean much to me. It’s a relatively arbitrary date. The calendar numbers change, but that’s all. It’s not a universal new beginning. The Chinese New Year this year is on January 25, the Jewish New Year is on September 18, the Persian New Year is March 19, the Korean New Year is January 25, the  Tibetan New Year begins on February 24, and various communities in the Hindu religion have different dates for their celebration.

January 1 is not even the beginning of a new season or of a solar cycle such as a solstice or an equinox. Nor is there any personal demarcation — no black line separates the old from the new. The world is no different today from yesterday, nor are we. We carry the old year with us because you have the same problems, sadnesses, hopes, fears.

There is a newness to January 1, though, and that is the newness of a new calendar.

Like school kids with stiff new clothes and a satchel full of crayons, unread books, and blank paper, we are ready to set out on an adventure, trembling with both trepidation and excitement. Our new calendars have 365 blank squares. How will we use those squares? With notations of appointments and special days, of course. Perhaps with reminders of bills to pay and chores to do. But many of those days will be blank. What we will do with those blank days? Will we search for happiness or a new love? Will we recommit to an old love? Will we strive to attain a better level of health? Will we experience new things, meet new people, visit new places, sample new foods?

I do feel that particular newness today, that hope.  I’ve had marvelous adventures the past past year — buying a house, settling into a new home and community, making new friends. And now I have 365 blank days on my new calendar. I plan on getting out my box of crayons and coloring those days brightly with the glow of a smile, laughter shared, and moments of appreciation for the world around me.

I hope your days will be filled with color, new adventures, and much joy.

Happy New Year.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Coloring My New Year

I’ve never really celebrated New Year’s because it doesn’t mean much to me. It’s a relatively arbitrary date. The calendar numbers change, but that’s all. It’s not a universal new beginning. The Chinese New Year this year is on January 31, the Jewish New Year is on September 24, the Persian New Year is March 20, the Korean New Year is January 31, the  Tibetan New Year begins on January 31, and various communities in the Hindu religion have different dates — January 14, March 31, April 14, April 15.

calendar_2014January 1 is not even the beginning of a new season or of a solar cycle such as a solstice or an equinox. Nor is there any personal demarcation — no black line separates the old from the new. The world is no different today from yesterday, nor are we. We carry the old year with us because you have the same problems, sadnesses, hopes, fears.

There is a newness to January 1, though, and that is the newness of a new calendar.

Like school kids with stiff new clothes and a satchel full of crayons, unread books, and blank paper, we are ready to set out on an adventure, trembling with both trepidation and excitement. Our new calendars have 365 blank squares. How will we use those squares? With notations of appointments and special days, of course. Perhaps with reminders of bills to pay and chores to do. But many of those days will be blank. What we will do with those blank days? Will we search for happiness or a new love? Will we recommit to an old love? Will we strive to attain a better level of health? Will we experience new things, meet new people, visit new places, sample new foods?

I do feel that particular newness today, that hope.  I’ve had marvelous adventures the past past year — going to Seattle to see Shen Yun, riding in a limousine, hiking with the Sierra Club, making new friends, attending parties and performances. I’ve walked hundreds of miles in the desert, posted 500 bloggeries (365 on this blog alone), learned dozens of delightful new words (my favorite is eupathy), shared many meals, laughed untold times, and exchanged thousands of smiles. It hasn’t all been wonderful, of course, but somehow I found the strength and courage to deal with the trying times. I cried when I needed to, threw my grief into the blogosphere, talked about (or rather, talked around) a heartbreaking family situation. And I survived. Even thrived.

And now I have 365 blank days on my new calendar. I plan on getting out my box of crayons and coloring those days brightly.

I hope your days will be filled with wonder, new adventures, and much joy.

Happy New Year.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

12/12/12 — A Wonderful and Wonderfully Mystic Day

1212/12/12 is a date that comes around every hundred years. Today should have been a mystical day, a momentous occasion with awesome happenings all over the world, though for the most part, it seemed to be a day like any other.

Twelve is a number steeped in our culture, in our heritage, in our very lives. To the ancients, it was a divine number. There were twelve major heavenly bodies in our solar system (the sun, the moon, the planets, which included Pluto and a far-flung planet as yet unknown to modern man, though currently hypothesized as Planet X). There were twelve gods. There are twelve signs of the zodiac, each representing 30 degrees of the heavenly arc. (Thirty is another divine number. If you are expecting the present era to end this month as the Mayans supposedly claimed, you will be disappointed. The Mayans used a mystical calendar with 360 days — 12 x 30 — rather than our 365.25 days. Hence, the so-called Mayan apocalypse won’t happen until 2087.)

There were twelve tribes of Israel, twelve apostles, twelve disciples of Mithras, twelve stations of life in Buddhism, twelve labors of Hercules, twelve sons of Odin in Norse mythology, twelve knights of the King Arthur’s round table.

Twelve is also a practical number, the lowest number with multiple divisors, making it a preferred method of organization, such as a dozen doughnuts or a dozen eggs; twelve colors on a color wheel; the twelve numbers on a clock face, the twelve inches to a foot, the twelve months in a year.

I’m sure there are dozens more instances showing the specialness of twelve, so why isn’t this day of twelves a momentous day of mystical happenings?

Well, for one, our calendar is arbitrary. The year could have started at a different time, perhaps in tune with the seasonal cycles where the first day of the year was the first day of spring. In certain cultures, the new year does begin on different dates, for example, the Chinese New Year was on January 23 this year, and the Jewish New Year was September 16th. The year itself is an entirely arbitrary number. Though this common era supposedly begins on the birth of Jesus, he was born no later than 4BC. (Though of course, back then, they would not have called it BC since the current calendar had not yet been invented.

And for another, this is a momentous day of mystical happenings. We are alive, aren’t we? That in itself is an awesome, momentous, and mystical experience.

Wishing you a wonderful and wonderfully mystic day.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

New Year, New Beginning?

I’ve never put emphasis on the new year because it’s a relatively arbitrary date. The calendar numbers change, but that’s all. It’s not a universal new beginning. The Chinese New Year this year is on February 3, the Jewish New Year is on September 28, and various communities in the Hindu religion have different dates — January 15, March 22, April 14, April 15, August 17, October 27. January 1 is not even the beginning of a new seasonal cycle. Nor is there any personal demarcation — no black line separates the old from the new. You carry the old year with you because you have the same problems, sadnesses, hopes, fears. In other words, you are still you. 

There is a newness to January 1, though, and that is the newness of a new day.  Unlike the year, each day is a new beginning. You wake up, and for a second everything is untouched — like new fallen snow — and you almost believe you can be anyone you want to be, do anything you want to do. Then the truth hits you.

Still, there’s hope, so I make daily resolutions instead of yearly ones. I have a list of a dozen do’s and don’ts that I would follow in a perfect world. I’m lucky to do about half of them each day, but it varies. Two days ago I did only a couple. Yesterday I did all but two. Today, of course, I resolve to follow everything on my list. The list includes such things as weight lifting and stretching, walking, writing, blogging, promoting, eating a big salad, drinking lots of water, staying away from sugar and wheat. As I said, in a perfect world . . .

Despite that, I did toast this new year, more as a symbol of newness than the reality of it. I’ve learned that since nothing seems important any more, I have to make something important every day. And toasting the new year seemed as good as anything to importantize.  (Yeah, I know — there’s no such word as importantize, but just for today —  this new day — there is.)