China Bridge (神州橋樑)_2016/Jan

A New Year

The Romans began each year by making promises to the god, Janus, for whom the month of January is named.

In Mediaeval times, knights took the peacock vow at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

Some Christians have a Watch-Night Service, especially the Methodists, who publicly set aside the last fleeting moments of the old year and the first of the new for penitence, special prayer and fresh resolve.

During Judaism’s new year, Rosh Hashanah, through the high holidays and culminating in Yom Kipper (the Day of Atonement), people reflect upon their wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness.

People act similarly during the Catholic liturgical season of Lent, though the motive behind this holiday is more of sacrifice than of responsibility. In fact the practice of New Year’s resolutions came partially from the Lenten sacrifices.

The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually (Source: Wikipedia).

Many Christians make New Year’s resolutions to spend more time with the family, to pray more, to visit the sick and confined, to give to some charitable organisations, to read the bible every day or to attend Church on a more regular basis.

These are fantastic goals. However, these resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual ones, because there is no power in a New Year’s resolution.

Resolving to start or to stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting it.

For example, why do we want to read the bible every day? Is it to honour God and grow spiritually, or is it because you heard that it is a good thing to do? Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to honour God or your body, or is it for vanity, to honour yourself?

In reality, there is no difference between December 31 and January 1. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31.

The bible does not speak for or against the concept of New Year’s resolutions.

Chinese New Year

Soon after December 31, Chinese people in Hong Kong, the mainland and many countries around the world have a special New Year celebration. They have many customs and traditions, and some of them are like making resolutions for the next year.

Many families traditionally clean their homes well in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good, in-coming luck.

Windows and doors are decorated with red paper-cut decorations and couplets with popular themes of good fortune or happiness, wealth and longevity.

The Chinese Lunar Year is centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions.

Traditionally, the festival was a time to honour deities as well as ancestors. Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration vary widely.

Often the evening preceding Chinese New Year’s Day is an occasion for families to gather for the annual reunion dinner.

The Chinese Lunar calendar

This calendar determines the day of Chinese New Year which falls on different dates each year. The winter solstice must occur in the 11th month, which means that the new year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice.

The dates, along with the year’s presiding animal zodiac and its stem-branch will be known.

The names of the Earthly Branches have no English counterparts and are not the Chinese translation of the animals.

Alongside the 12-year cycle of the animal zodiac there is a 10-year cycle of heavenly stems.

Each of the stems is associated with one of the five elements of Chinese astrology, namely: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The elements are rotated every two years while a yin and yang association alternates every year.

The Monkey is number ninth in the 12-year cycle of animals. They possess such character traits as curiosity, mischievousness and cleverness.

Forever playful, Monkeys are the masters of practical jokes. Even though their intentions are always good, this desire to be a prankster has a tendency to create ill will and hurt feelings.

Although they are inherently intellectual and creative, Monkeys at times have trouble exhibiting these qualities. When that happens, they appear to others to be confused.

But nothing could be further from the truth, as Monkeys thrive on being challenged. They prefer urban life to rural and their favourite pastime is people-watching.

This year, 2016, we will be welcoming the year of the Fire Monkey on February 8. If you or any in your family or friends were born in a Monkey year such as, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992 or 2004 here are some more things about your special animal that you can have lots of fun with.

No one takes Chinese New Year fortunes seriously, so gather a few friends, male and female and see if you can relate to the Fire Monkey in some way.

The Fire Monkey is the most active and aggressive of the Monkeys. Naturally dominant, they automatically gravitate towards leadership roles and are competitive in whatever they do. They will need to be careful not to let this overwhelm them and turn into toxic jealousy.

They also constantly strive to be in control of whatever situation they are in, which can become overbearing. The main drive for whatever they embark on is to head straight for the top and stay there. However, when in charge of a situation, their skills kick in and they do nurture those they are in charge of.

With this fire energy, the agile, impulsive Monkey often leaps where angels fear to tread. This reckless behaviour sometimes works to the Fire Monkey’s disadvantage.

However, they are extremely creative, dynamic and are particularly good at drawing people to them which often helps to them out of scrapes.

They will leap from tree to tree, whichever has the most fruit at the time, and then find the quickest, cleverest escape before others get to them. In general though, the Fire Monkey is flamboyant, charmingly friendly and has a large social circle.

The Fire Monkey’s aggression needs to be channelled correctly in positive directions, or they risk becoming highly destructive and harmful. If the Fire Monkey could develop more patience, it would be good for them and those who work with them.

The Fire Monkey also needs to think through their ideas before acting on them in order to safeguard their own interests.


After the Christmas decorations are put away and the fireworks of Chinese New Year have been swept up, we Catholics will focus on the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

This special year began when Pope Francis opened the Holy Door during a special ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica on 8 December 2015 and ends when he closes it on November 20 this year.

This opening and closing of the Holy Door usually occurs every 25 years and is called the unwalling and the final walling up. Nowadays, wooden doors are used.

The pope designated bishops around the world to do the same so that all dioceses would be united.

“The door indicates Jesus himself who said: ‘I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture’,” the pope said.

“Going through the holy doors is the sign of our trust in the Lord Jesus who did not come to judge, but to save,” he continued.

Pope Francis has called on Catholics around the world to use this Jubilee of Mercy to open wide the doors of their hearts to forgive others and to work against social exclusion, even for those that may have caused them bother or upset.

He also said that walking through any of the holy doors open in dioceses around the world for the jubilee year should be a sign of true conversion of our heart.

The holy door remains open, because it is the sign of the welcoming that God reserves for us, so also our doors – those of our hearts – must always be open to not exclude anyone, he said. “Not even those that bother me. No one!”


Now that we have closed out the year 2015, let us count our blessings and be thankful.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus every December, we never forget that he is with us always.

As we gather with friends to welcome in the New Year, we might want to make some good resolutions. Let us also keep in prayer the many people and countries in need of peace.

As we start the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has said, “We must open our hearts and forgive others. God forgives all of us and God understands us, even in our contradictions.”

May your New Year be filled with peace and joy.