Pig Tales: The Chinese Year of the Pig!

Credit: Yum Cha

Ever hear the term ‘lucky pig’? Well, the Chinese celebrated their New Year on February 5, 2019, and this is the year for the ‘pigs’ of the world to be especially fortunate as it is the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Pig. So if you are born in the years 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007 and 2019, it’s going to be a fabulous year for you! (Some astrologers believe it is the opposite and you have to be extra careful but we like to be optimistic!).

What is the Chinese Zodiac anyway? It’s different from the more common zodiac signs and rather than be assigned monthwise, each sign comes along once in twelve years. They are also all named after animals and there’s a funny story about that.

The story of the Chinese Zodiac: There are many versions of this tale, but the most common one goes like this:

There was a Great Race in China to determine which animals would be representing the different signs of the calendar. The Jade Emperor hosted this race and the first twelve animals to cross a river and reach the emperor would be the chosen ones. The rat and cat who were great friends hitched a ride with the ox who was a strong swimmer and likely to come in first. However, mid-way through the stream, the cat was jolted into the water. He screamed, but the rat and ox didn’t hear him and carried on. Perhaps this is why the cats hate water and always chase rats! The smart rat jumped off the ox’s shoulder and ran across the finish line to come in first! Then followed the tiger, rabbit, and then the dragon (who had nobly stopped to help put out a fire in a village, therefore coming in fifth).

Credit: Wikipedia

Next were the horse, snake, sheep, monkey, rooster and dog. Now there was only one spot left. Eagerly the Jade Emperor waited. Suddenly, he heard a loud oink! Coming on a quick trot was the pig, covered in mud! As he crossed the line, the Emperor asked, “Why did an animal as sprightly as you come in last?” The pig confessed that he had felt hungry and stopped for something to eat along the way and therefore lagged behind. The Emperor smiled and gave him the last spot on the calendar.

What does the pig signify? In Chinese culture, the pig is a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Their chubby little faces indicate much good fortune.

Pigs can signify vastly different things in other cultures though. Some positive symbols include those of ancient Egyptians and Celtic mythology – both regard the pig as a symbol of fertility and abundance. In Hinduism, the pig or boar is one of the avatars of Vishnu. The Greeks often sacrificed a pig to guarantee a bumper crop and even the Native Americans believed that the pig could bring good rainfall. But not all cultures loved the little piggy. In Buddhism, the pig is considered a symbol of ignorance. Christians believe the pig to be lazy, Jews and Muslims think that the pig is unclean and therefore do not eat pork. It’s all a matter of personal faith. However, one delicious tradition is that of little pig-shaped marzipans and candy that are eaten in Germany and other parts of Europe around the New Year for good luck…yum!

What are some traits of people born in the Year of the Pig? Coming back to the Chinese calendar, people who are ‘pigs’ are said to have certain characteristics. They have a lot of energy, are optimistic, and always cheery. They love the good things in life and adore entertaining. They tend to be spendthrifts, but usually keep themselves in check as they are also realists. There is a reason why the little money holder is called a piggy bank!

So if you are a pig, or know someone who is one, it is your time to shine, and you can be sure that this year will be anything but ‘boar’ing!

Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant . She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.

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