The Year of the Pig is upon us. Yesterday I took Master Seven to the local library and he noticed the window display featuring red lanterns, red pockets (or 红包 hóng bāo), and a cheerful, cute statue of a pig. “Ah, it’s the Year of the Pig,” he commented sagely, as though the Lunar New Year is something he knows alllllll about. I was surprised when he next said, “I’m a rabbit, right?” Yes, Master Seven is a rabbit in the Chinese Zodiac, just like his father. We have a veritable zoo in our household. I’m a horse, Miss 12 is a dog, and the baby is a monkey. Which seems fitting, as she’s into climbing everywhere.
Master Seven had more to tell me about the Year of the Pig. Somewhere he’s learned that the pig is the twelfth animal in the Chinese Zodiac, and that there’s a myth about how he got to be last in the queue. Apparently the pig was invited to the Jade Emperor’s party and overslept, turning up last. Another myth says that (ahem) a wolf destroyed the pig’s house and he had to rebuild it before he could go to the party, and that was what left him in last place. I am not sure which version of the story I like better: The pig who slept in is very dear to my heart, since I’ll take any chance I can get to catch an extra hour or two of slumber; or the Little Pig whose house was huffed and puffed and blown in by the Big, Bad Wolf.
I like pigs, myself. First of all, I like bacon. I’m sorry to bring that up, but I thought I’d better get it out of the way. Bacon is delicious. A few years back my little brother took me to a beer festival where one of the stalls was selling chocolate-covered bacon and let me tell you, it was amazing. That may have been due to the fact I was a little tipsy from the beer-tasting but I remember being very impressed. I even tried to make my own chocolate-covered bacon when I came home. It was a fail.
Second of all, one of my cousins had a pot-bellied pig when I was growing up. His name was Wilbur and he was huge. He lived in the house and behaved much like a dog. (No, he did NOT sleep in anyone’s bed and yes, he was house-trained.) He was great fun to hang out with – he was extremely smart, had a lovely nature, and was slavishly devoted to my cousin, whom I am sure he thought was his mum. He was a well-loved, well-behaved pig, and I was sad when I heard he’d died, because he was family.
Third of all, one of my children’s favourite book characters is Mercy the Pig, from the series of six books by Kate DiCamillo. I had the opportunity to interview her (Kate, not Mercy) a few years ago and I may have embarrassed myself with my inability to focus completely on the book I was interviewing her about and instead trying to find out, by hook or by crook, if there would be any more Mercy the Pig books in her future. Kate was very gracious and replied, and I quote, “There will be more Mercy in unexpected ways!” And now I’ve just learned that a prequel to the Mercy the Pig books is coming out this year. It’s called A Pig Named Mercy, and it’ll be released in the Year of the Pig. Coincidence? I think not!
Here in NZ, we celebrate the Lunar New Year with delicious Chinese food, lantern festivals, cultural activities, and colourful events. I went to my first lantern festival a few years ago and was blown away by the beautiful and intricate lanterns. It’s a neat event to take children to, and even if they can’t stay up late enough to see the lanterns lit up, they’re still stunning in the daylight. Check out our What’s On section to find a celebration near you.
Whatever your Chinese Zodiac sign is, I wish you a wonderful Year of the Pig. Xīn nián kuài lè 新年快乐!
Editor, Tots to Teens