Pagosa Lakes Perch Tournament scheduled Feb. 7

The Chinese Lunar New Year will fall on Jan. 26 this year, and the zodiac animal is the ox.

It may sound weird, but it is true. Except for a very few number of people who can keep track of when the Chinese New Year should be, the majority of the Chinese today have to rely on a typical Chinese calendar to tell it. Therefore, you cannot talk of the Chinese calendar at first.

A Chinese calendar consists of both the Gregorian and lunar- solar-calendared systems, with the latter dividing a year into twelve months. Each of these months is in turn equally divided into thirty-nine and a half days. This dual system calendar reflects the Chinese ingenuity (or penchant for complexity). Besides the two calendared systems, a Chinese calendar will not be complete without a twenty-four solar terms glossary, closely related to the changes of nature — a very useful tool for farmers, providing information on the proper time for planting and harvesting.

The first fifteen days of the Chinese lunar month makes the first term, namely, Beginning of Spring, which usually starts from the fourth or fifth of February, and the first day is the Chinese New Year’s Day or the onset of the Spring Festival.

The second fifteen days are named Rain Water, from the nineteenth or twentieth of February, a time when rainy seasons are setting in.

Next in order comes the Waking of Insects, from the fifth or sixth of March, as the earth awakes from hibernation. And the last of 24 solar terms goes on until it ends with Great Cold, from the twentieth or twenty-first of January; bringing the cycle to an end.

When talking about her youngest child, my mother would sometimes say, “You were born in the Beginning of Autumn (from the seventh or eighth of August) and it was followed by the Limit of Heat (from the twenty-third or twenty-fourth of August).”

There is also a system that marks in a twelve-year cycle, naming each of them after an animal, such as rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and boar. By the way, I was born in the year of the dragon, a darn tough one for a female, for who would want to wed a dragon lady. Lucky for me, and also for my family, a non-believing (ignorant) white man came along.

The Chinese New Year is now popularly known as the Spring Festival because it starts from the Beginning of Spring (the first of the twenty-four terms in coordinating with the changes of nature).

Although my homeland may be thousands of miles away, I will still observe the traditional festivities with my family on Monday, Jan. 26.

Celebration will begin the day before which is considered the worst day of the year because it is the last night for people to pay their debts. You know, the Chinese have this thing of “saving your face.” If you lose your face, people lose trust in you. Not too dissimilar from here. If you mess up with your credit, you can’t borrow money anywhere.

Also, on New Year’s Eve, the kitchen god and god of wealth return and are honored with a ceremonial feast. This is also a time for worshipping ancestors.

Tom will cook the feast, one that is sure to please the kitchen god so when he makes his report on my family in heaven it will be a glowing one. While Tom is cooking, I’ll clean the house by sweeping out the old and bring in the new. Despite its unflattering name, for people born in the year of the ox, good fortunes are within reach. If you are born in the year of the ox (1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009), you are supposed to be bright, patient and inspiring to others. It doesn’t say anything about being obstinate and if you don’t believe me, look it up the next time you are at a Chinese restaurant.

“Kung Hai Fatt Choy” is the phrase du jour for Jan. 26. Should you be linguistically inclined, memorize it so you can greet your Chinese friends appropriately on the Chinese New Year.

Perch Tournament

Tickets for the Pagosa Lakes Winter Perch Tournament will go on sale next week. Tickets will be available at Eagle Mountain Mercantile, the Pagosa Lakes Recreation Center and the Pagosa Lakes Administration Office in Vista. The tournament this year is being sponsored by Eagle Mountain Mercantile and is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 7 at Lake Pagosa, 9:30 a.m until 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 pre-purchase and $15 at the lake on tournament day. Entry fees will be utilized for cash prizes in two categories, most perch caught by number and largest perch caught. Kids 16 and under fish for free and will compete separately for some great prizes.

The fishing over the past week on Lake Pagosa has been fairly good; however, anglers should expect the numbers of perch being caught to be much less this year than it has been in year’s past. It still promises to be a great day on the lake, and these tournaments are always fun. This year we are asking folks to carpool as much as much as possible because parking is always a problem near the lake.