Lunar New Year explained: The Year of the Tiger and why it changes

By Joe Nelson

2022 marks the Year of the Tiger, with February 1 marking the Lunar New Year and the transition from the Year of the Ox in 2021.

The Chinese New Year is a 16-day celebration which begins on the first of the Lunar Calendar and lasts until the 15th of the first month.

Repeated across the 12-year Lunar cycle, Chinese zodiacs are 12 different animals, and each are associated with distinctive characteristics and their finishing position in the famous Chinese fable The Great Race.

Manchester hosted a weekend of Lunar celebrations. Credit: Joseph Nelson

But what is the history of this epic tale?

The story goes that Jade Emperor, one of the most prominent gods in Chinese region, invited all animals in the world to participate in a race.

Of those invited, 12 different species agreed to take part: a pig, rooster, dog, monkey, sheep, horse, snake, dragon, rabbit, tiger ox and a rat.

Each of those taking part were to be given a year named after them, and the race would act as a means of ranking them in order.

The most famous part of the tale is the great river that each of the animals had to cross to reach the finish line, and the way that each animal dealt with this challenge ultimately dictated the finishing order.

The dog and the pig

The dog and the pig were the two lowest placed animals.

The pig was assigned the final place in the zodiac, after a food-stop led to it becoming sleepy and having a nap.

Likewise, distractions led to the dog being overtaken, and subsequently finishing 11th after spending too much time playing in the river.

Unlikely teammates

The sheep, monkey and rooster formed an unusual alliance to cross the river, creating a raft which allowed them to safely cross the river.

Despite lagging behind the rest of the pack, the trio dashed for the finish and took the eighth, ninth and tenth places, with the sheep in eight, the monkey in ninth, and the rooster in tenth.

Sly snake scares the horse

The horse found itself in the middle of the pack, and rather cunningly, the snake wrapped itself around its leg to catch a ride.

As the duo approached the finish line, the snake uncoiled and shocked the horse, to take sixth place.

The dragon, the rabbit and the tiger

Surprisingly, the mythical dragon only finished fifth in this race. However, its selfless nature is apparent, having diverted its course to save villagers from a fire, before blowing the struggling rabbit to shore.

The rabbit, tired from the race, ambled over the finish line in fourth, behind the Tiger, who had struggled in the strong current of the river.

Wily rat outsmarts the ox

On the face of it, one would assume that out of the top two animals, the rat and the ox, the ox would have an advantage in crossing the dangerous river.

But for what the rat lacked in size, it made up for in cunning. Exhausted from the great race, the rat persuaded the ox to allow it to sit on its head, as the massive mammal made the crossing.

Upon reaching the other side, the rat quickly leapt off the ox’s head and made a dash towards the finish line, winning the race and cementing its position as the first zodiac in the Lunar calendar.

Manchester’s Chinatown celebrates the Year of the Tiger

To celebrate the Lunar New Year, Manchester’s Chinatown played host to a weekend of celebrations, featuring traditional dance performances, food stalls and the famous Illuminated Dragon.

Spectators were undeterred by the wet conditions. Credit: Joseph Nelson

In Manchester, hundreds flocked to the streets of Chinatown to participate in the festivities, undeterred by the dismally rainy February weather.

While the traditional dragon parade was unable to take place this year, due to coronavirus; the central stage, adorned with two gigantic tiger sculptures, shone a spotlight on a plethora of entertainment from traditional lion dances to UK Hip Hop.

In Chinatown, strings of red lanterns adorned the streets and visitors were greeted by a cacophony of drums as a Dragon dance went door to door.

Dragon dances were held outside local businesses in Manchester. Credit: Joseph Nelson

The weather was miserable this weekend in typical Manchester style, but the Lunar celebrations were anything but.

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