Enter the Year of the Dragon

Chinese Zodiac Dragon
Chinese Zodiac Dragon

Today marks the start of the Chinese New Year, and the sign for this year is the Dragon.  Or, to be more precise, the Year of the Water Dragon.

This year is considered particularly auspicious because the Dragon is considered the most powerful animal symbol in the Chinese zodiac. From the “Chinese Zodiac,” the Dragon represents –

“Occupying the 5th position in the Chinese Zodiac, the Dragon is the mightiest of the signs. Dragons symbolize such character traits as dominance and ambition. Dragons prefer to live by their own rules and if left on their own, are usually successful. They’re driven, unafraid of challenges, and willing to take risks. They’re passionate in all they do and they do things in grand fashion. […] “

Apparently, being a Water Dragon is a moderating influence –

“Water calms the Dragon’s fire. Water Dragons are able to see things from other points of view. They don’t have the need to always be right. Their decisions, if well-researched, are usually better since they allow other’s to become involved. “

So there you have it.  We’re entering a year where every child born will grow up to be a sensitive yet strong over-achiever.

Meanwhile, back in China, the people are starting a two week New Year holiday celebration. This is the biggest holiday in China, also called the Spring Festival. For this holiday everyone who is at all able will travel back to the place they call home to celebrate the holiday with family.  Given the modern nature of China, with millions of people working in factories and cities far from the rural villages they were born in, and in many cases supporting their family from afar, the New Year holiday season has become the world’s biggest temporary human migration.

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua has reported that during this holiday travel season, which began Jan. 8 and will end in the middle of February, the majority of the country’s 1.34 billion population will be travelling at least twice during the period for an estimated total of 3.16 billion passenger trips, a 9.1 percent increase from 2011.  So far this season, China’s trains carried 80.2 million passengers, up 7.7 percent from a year earlier. Almost 84 million people traveled by road on Jan. 21, a record since the festival travel season began. Airlines have been operating nearly 8,000 flights each day at a capacity that is able to carry 1 million passengers on a daily basis.

Travel has become even more complicated due to extreme cold fronts which brought severe low temperatures and heavy snows to the northern regions of China. Roads were blocked, airline flights snarled, cars and buses were stuck in snow drifts.  To add to the general misery, the Chinese government implemented an Internet-based train reservation system in time for the holiday season, designed to make it easier for this now wired nation to buy train tickets.  The system became overwhelmed, with people reportedly spending hours trying to buy their tickets online and venting their anger on China’s social networking websites.

I’m thinking Washington D.C. commuter traffic on a really bad day, with snowstorms, encompassing most of the United States. For about two weeks.  I have to admit, the Chinese know how to celebrate.

To everyone who celebrates this holiday, Happy New Year!  May the coming year bring you Good health, happiness, prosperity, and lots of dragon babies.

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