Hoppy Year of the Rabbit! Celebrants to honor the Lunar New Year this weekend
Once, as the legend goes, there lived four besties: an otter, a jackal, a monkey and a lovely little rabbit. One day on Earth, the Jade Emperor disguised himself as an impoverished wanderer and descended to the forest from the moon. He decided to test the character and virtue of the four friends.
“I’m hungry,” said the incognito deity. “Where can I find something to eat?” Three of the animals were experienced hunters, foragers and pilferers. The otter brought a fish, the monkey gathered fresh fruits from the trees, and the jackal swiped a pot of cheese curds.
The rabbit thought, “All I eat is grass, and that’s all I can bring this poor fellow. I can’t stand seeing people going hungry, but what’s the guy going to do with a hunk of turf?”
So, the bunny decided to make the ultimate sacrifice. She and her friends built a fire, and the rabbit threw herself on it so that the old man could have some meat. The Jade Emperor immediately revealed his identity and pulled the rabbit from the flames, miraculously unscathed and unsinged.
“You,” said the Emperor to the rabbit, “are the most selfless, benevolent creature I’ve ever met. Your name is now the Jade Rabbit, and I’m taking you up to the Moon Palace to keep the Moon Goddess, Chang’e, company.”
You can see the Jade Rabbit there today in shadow, happily pounding a pestle to make mochi—some stories say magical elixir—for everyone to enjoy. The last thing anyone on Earth heard her say was “Boy, does this beat turning into a plate of hassenpfeffer.”
Several tellings of this tale exist, including in some children’s books. On Jan. 22, people in China and across the world will celebrate the Year of the Rabbit. Like the story of the Jade Rabbit, there are many variations among the celebrations because of the diverse cultures and ethnicities that live in the large nation. Countries other than China have their own Lunar New Year celebrations—Vietnam, for instance, observes Tet, and the cat takes the place of the rabbit on the lunar calendar (doesn’t that beg another adoption column).
According to Wendy Chou Le, vice president at large of the Long Beach-Qingdao Association, the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration goes on for two and sometimes three weeks. In China, the entire country celebrates. It’s the busiest time of the year where the holiday is celebrated. Among the diversity of observation, there are certain things that remain constant, particularly the family.
“Chinese New Year is huge, and you go home,” Chou Le said. “You don’t opt out of it—you’re not a good child if you don’t come home.”
The Qingdao Association is planning a family festival for the holiday, but it will take place on Feb. 18 instead of Jan. 22.
“We can’t book anything on that date, so we focus it further out,” Chou Le said.
Food is central to the holiday. Chinese families will sit down to huge feasts with traditional dishes like nian gao (rice cakes) and yu (fish). “Yu” also means “leftover,” signifying that you want to be sufficiently well off to have leftovers. Chou Le said that “nian” means both “sticky” and “year” and “gao” means “cake” and “elevated places.”
“Eat them year after year, and you’ll be prosperous,” she said.
Dumplings are served in the northern parts of China and egg rolls in the south, both made to resemble golden bars and chunks. Everything’s red, from clothing to frighten evil spirits to the little envelopes filled with money and given to friends and family to ensure prosperity.
But, um—hopping back to the bunny—the rabbit is one of the 12 animals represented on the Chinese lunar calendar, which is similar to a zodiac. Each animal manifests a different personality that is believed to influence the behaviors of the humans born during that year. Marriages and romances between humans can be advised through the lunar calendar, much like the astronomical zodiac used in astrology, and the matches can be taken as seriously. Chou Le said that some Chinese companies and organizations will vet you for a position according to your birth sign.
The rabbit on the lunar calendar possesses several personality traits with slight variations according to the source you consult. People born during the Year of the Rabbit are said to be super-kind, gentle, meek and courageous, much like the Jade Rabbit, but also vain and emotionally unstable. Each zodiac sign has different elements for different time periods—this year’s category is the Wood Rabbit, which Qingdao Association secretary Anne Heusser said signifies expansion, warmth, exploration and flexibility, “just like the characteristics of wood.” Oh, my ears and whiskers, it gets complicated.
Those with birthdays between the Januarys of 2023 and 2024 on the Gregorian calendar were born in the Year of the Rabbit. If you were born in the Year of the Rabbit, Chou Le said, your age would be divisible by 12—try it out!
Of course, actual, living rabbits aren’t icons or legends. Even though most of them have four rabbit’s feet, too many of them aren’t lucky. They’re dumped and abandoned after the novelty has worn off and people find out how much care is needed. That includes spaying and neutering—rabbits can multiply like—well, rabbits.
Some of them live in the Bunny Barn at Long Beach Animal Care Services—so many, in fact, that some had to be moved into kennels in the Cat Cottage. They make great house pets as long as you wrap up any electric wires. Check out the cottontail community here.
Domestic rabbits in shelters and rescues especially deserve prosperity in the form of loving, smart humans in a forever home, or at least a transition to one. To adopt or foster (you can foster bunnies!), email [email protected] or [email protected]. You can also stop by the shelter at 7700 E. Spring St. at the entrance to El Dorado Park to meet them in person.
Great furballs of fun!
Pawlentine’s Day Adoption Event: This free event will be held Saturday, Feb. 11, 2–3 p.m., Long Beach Animal Care Services, 7700 E. Spring St. (At the entrance to El Dorado Park, there are no parking fees for shelter visitors.)
Speed-dating in the best possible way. Find your best match at our shelter, and bring lots of love to the residents already there. Long Beach Animal Care Services invites the community to enjoy music, photos and decorating Valentine’s Day cards to bring home to your pets or place in the shelter’s pets’ Pawlentine’s Day treat buckets. Please also bring unopened store-bought pet treats and toys to put in the treat buckets. Money can’t buy love, so adoption fees will be waived for all pets during the event. Remember—please leave your own pets at home.
CatPAWS 10th annual Bowling Fundraiser: This event will be held Saturday, March 18, 2 p.m.–5:30 p.m., at Westminster Lanes, 6471 Westminster Blvd., Westminster. It costs $45 per bowler, or $20 to sit on the sidelines and cheer.
Join up with Team Kitty and rack up a few winners for the cats and kittens at Helen Sanders CatPAWS. Bowl for two hours, or pay the lesser amount and just watch the pins fall like a veritable feline. Chow down on hearty appetizers or a personal pizza, with soft drink included. All tickets include an opportunity drawing, and prizes will be awarded for highest and lowest scores. Buy tickets here. All proceeds benefit CatPAWS.
Foster for a while—or furever!
The more than 300 LBACS dogs, cats and bunnies need your help. The city of Long Beach’s commitment to Compassion Saves means that animals in our care can live and thrive. We need our community to show its support of Compassion Saves by fostering, adopting, volunteering and donating. LBACS has reached urgent capacity with the influx of incoming animals to the shelter during the holidays. There is no more kennel space to take in more dogs at the shelter. To maintain the LBACS Compassion Saves model of helping those in greatest need—the sick, injured and abused—your help is needed to keep the healthy and lost pets out of the shelter. If you are interested in adopting, please email [email protected] or apply to foster here.
If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!
These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list. Keep in mind that the rescues are self-supporting and need donations and volunteer help. Most of them cannot accept found or unwanted pets. Contact Long Beach Animal Care Services for options.
German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County
Long Beach Animal Care Services
Long Beach Spay and Neuter Foundation
Pet Food Express Cat Adoption Center
Sparky and the Gang Animal Rescue
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