2018: Year of the Dog

GUNG HAY FAT CHOY!

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Did you know that President Donald Trump’s birthday is June 14, 1946, in the Year of the Dog?  Love him or hate him, you will discover that there are many others out there who are just like him.

The Year of the Dog, Gow Nien, begins his reign on Friday, February 16, 2018.  The Dog is in 11th place in the Chinese cycle and is considered the Don Quixote of the Chinese Zodiac.

year-of-the-dogThose born in 1910, 1922,1946,1958,1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018 are like their canine counterparts.  As man’s best friend, they crave devotion, tenderness and verbal endearments. Their friendships are highly valued because they can keep confidences and are always socially gracious.  When upset or angry, they intimidate those who don’t know them well but basically, their bark is always worse than their bite.  Though sensitive, they flare up easily but cool down quickly.

One flaw is that they make snap judgments about others and can be stubborn in their likes and dislikes.  Sometimes dreamy and pensive, they tend to fret excessively and can be jealous because they’re unsure of themselves and prone to imaginary anxieties.

By nature, they are not materialistic and born leaders who eventually are rewarded for their patience and long-term investments.  And like all the other animals in the Zodiac, they know exactly how important the big Chinese celebration coming up is all about.

Chinese New Year is a very special time for the Chinese, something they look forward to every year. It’s usually the same, one happy giant season that is equivalent to all birthdays, Christmases and Thanksgivings rolled into one.

The Chinese spare no expense and spend lavishly on food and drink, particularly during the first two weeks.  Many splurge and provide their families with an ample supply of chicken, duck, meat, fruit and vegetables while others search out restaurants that will be offering special holiday banquets.

Three days preceding the appointed date, houses are cleaned, and new clothes bought for everyone in the household.  Debts are paid because everyone wants to start off the New Year with a clean slate.

Decades ago this holiday was celebrated for a full month but today the festivities are about 15 days.  Some Chinese businesses close for 3 days.  The family dinner served during the eve of Chinese New Year involves a large spread.  Fresh fish is a “must” as fish (yu) has the same sound as the word for abundance and implies the family will not want in the coming year. Togetherness and plenty for all are the keynotes of this particular time.

New clothes are worn on the first day of the New Year.  Relatives and friends bring food gifts since food is inextricably tied to the concept of prosperity signifying that there will be plenty to eat in the coming year.   Elders give out red money envelopes (lai-see) to younger children and unmarried people.  Others visit the Buddhist temple in order to bring good luck to family members.  Firecrackers and incense are burned to chase away evil spirits and red banners are hung on front doors to encourage good luck.

In some large major cities, the Chinese celebrations always include a parade featuring the traditional and colorful dragon dance.  Another will be to consume delicious dishes prepared for just this occasion which explains the old Chinese proverb that during the first part of the New Year, no one goes hungry.  Since food plays an important role in all Chinese functions, all meals are prepared in advance because cooking that special day is taboo.

Jai, or Monk’s Food, is the most popular New Year’s dish. This recipe originated with the Buddhist monks who were vegetarians and is still be served today.  Monks went begging door-to-door and were given meager portions of vegetables.  From this, the Chinese, being inventive cooks, came up with the meatless Jai dish.

Jai ingredients are a play on Chinese words, especially those symbolizing good luck.  Fat Choy (hair-like seaweed) is wealth.  Fun See (cellophane noodles) and Chin Ngee (fungus) are longevity, Foo Jook (dried bean curd sheets) means blessing every household, Bak Ko (ginkgo nut) means 100 Grandchildren, Ho See (dried oysters) means good tidings and successful business, Gum Choy (dried lily flower) means gold and good luck and Hua Sing (peanut) means birth and promotion.

During the weekly celebration, parents, grandparents, and friends will be honored with gifts such as oranges, candy, nuts or pastries.  This period promotes benevolence, reunions, family unity and remembrance when people will pay homage to their deceased ancestors.

Candied preserved fruits and vegetables together with melon seeds are symbolic of Chinese New Year.  They also signify something – melon seeds mean many children, the long vines of squash and melon plants mean a long line of descendants, lotus seeds mean production of sons, while carrots, tangerines, and kumquats are also prized because being round and golden, they signify prosperity – “kum” or “gum” in Chinese means “gold,” thus golden wealth.

While many will enjoy special foods, events, and festivities, it is no secret that the Chinese are superstitious, especially about New Year’s Day.  Knives and scissors are put away so that no one can cut the continuity of luck and loans are not negotiated that day for fear that it might entail loaning money for the rest of the year.  Brooms should also be avoided as they can sweep away good luck.

For many of us who simply adore Chinese food and live in areas where we cannot buy some ingredients necessary for a traditional Jai dish, you can always substitute and come out with a creative meal of your own.  Here are a few easy suggestions to try.

One of my favorites is Velvet Corn Soup because it only requires a few ingredients and you will end up with a delicious broth.  First, skin and bone a chicken breast, dice into small pieces and marinate with 2 tsp. Sherry and set aside.  Open a can of Chicken Broth (low sodium is desired) and add a can of water.  When it boils, pour in the Cream Corn, toss in a few slices of fresh raw ginger and when it comes to a boil again, toss in the diced chicken and continue until chicken is done. In the meantime beat an egg, then slowly stir into soup.  Turn to low heat until dinner is ready.

Another easy one is Mushroom Chicken with veggies.  Lots of chopping but so worth it.  First, slice skin and bone two chicken breasts and dice into small pieces.  Marinate chicken with oyster and soya sauce.  Heat up skillet with sesame oil, toss in two garlic cloves, and toss in chicken, cook at high speed for about 5 minutes, add some sliced mushrooms and slowly add whatever veggies you want like carrots, celery, daikon, napa, onions, cabbage.   Cook over medium heat mixing well and turn down low to simmer which is a good time to toss in Zucchini since it doesn’t take long to cook.  Enjoy – This is absolutely delicious over rice.

How about shrimp?  New Year’s meal wouldn’t be the same without seafood. Shrimp and peas. Remove vein from 1lb. medium sized shrimp. Cut half lengthwise and across into three pieces.  Marinate with 1 tsp. wine, 1 egg white, ¼ cup green onions.  Pour some sesame oil into frying pan, and stir-fry for 2 minutes and then add one cup of frozen peas, add ½ tsp sugar and 1 tbsp. water mixing all ingredients together.

Hopefully, you will add these tasty recipes to whatever you decide to cook and enjoy on Chinese New Year.

There are many things we can learn from the past.  Let’s take a look at a few of them during the Dog years.

On August 22, the reality of Japan’s relationship with Korea was implicit and emboldened by their military victory over the Russians in Manchuria.  The Japanese wasted no time and threatened the Korean ministers, and secretly implemented what became The Korean Japanese treaty in 1910. Under the terms of their protectorate, they gained control of Korea’s internal administration and foreign policy. Japan became the strongest power in Asia and released a crushing reign of terror over the Koreans who were primitively armed and politically compromised suffering the furious resignation of the powerless.

In 1922, we were introduced to the first Technicolor feature, a version of Madame Butterfly titled Toll of the Sea. However, it didn’t catch on immediately since it was too expensive.

In 1934, the first comic books were born and offered to the public for a dime in department stores. The initial press of 35,000 copies was a sell-out.

In 1958, a new electronic toy, PONG, the first video game, was created by physicist William Higinbotham who used an analog computer and wired an oscilloscope and a jumble of electronic hardware for his invention.

While many things happened during the Dog years, it is the Chinese Zodiac that intrigued me the most because there is an animal in all of us so I figured it was time to research who else was born under this sign.

Famous females were Mother Teresa, Sophia Loren, and Ava Gardner.

But let’s take it one step further since I am also curious about which Presidents were born during the Year of the Dog.

This is not only important to see who has the same traits but also to see how they would get along with others.

President Donald Trump’s birthday is June, 4, 1946 but there are also two other President who were born the same year.  I’m sure they think that they have nothing in common with President Trump but they would be surprised to learn that they are more similar than they think or even want to admit. One is George W. Bush. His birthday is July 6, 1946, and ironically, the other is Bill Clinton’s, whose birthdate is August 19, 1946.  All three Presidents were born the same Dog year.

Think about this!  Presidents George W. Bush and William Clinton are now all the same age as our current President Trump.

Now we do know just how the first two POTUS will be remembered historically after their Presidency but we still don’t have any clue as to what our current President will accomplish.  He is just getting started and his motto has been and always will be AMERICA first and another popular phrase he likes is WE WILL SEE.

Then there is Paul Ryan, another one born in a Dog year, January 29, 1970, who will be working with our President.

So hang on everyone, 2018 is going to be an interesting year.  The Dog with his domestic auspices will bring harmony, happiness, and disagreements at the same time.

It will be a year of patriotism, controversial issues like fairness, equality, and liberty but effective changes will be introduced. But we should never take things for granted because there will be plenty to bark about.

The enchanting, warm-hearted Dog will cause clashes, upheavals, and rebellion of all sorts. We will learn by his aptitude for dealing with vast numbers of people from all walks of life to act with maturity and common sense.

During this year, we will find ourselves pulling away from the pursuit of chasing that almighty dollar and reflect more on what is important in life.

This year we can relax more because the Dog’s ever watchful eye will be the main force in keeping this time calm.

One Response to "2018: Year of the Dog"

  1. Joyce White  Friday, January 26, 2018 at 13:58

    What a wonderful article. I really enjoyed all the references to our companion dogs and they are right on. My birthday is November 12, 1946, and I have three dogs that are very similar to me. They bring me harmony, happiness, and disagreements at the same time. My dogs crave devotion, tenderness and verbal endearments. Their friendships are highly valued because I have few other friends at this time in my life. Both my dogs and I intimidate those who don’t know us well but basically, like you said, our bark is always worse than our bite. We flare up easily but cool down quickly. This article was a great teaching tool for many things.

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