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Valentine's What Now?

The road to double happiness lies in forgetting all about that Valentine's crap and partaking of an alternate holiday. One billion Chinese can't be wrong.

By Rebecca Patt

I always thought cartoonist Matt Groening said it best when he said, "Love is like a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."

Love has a way of evoking misery and terror and savage gnawing pain. Especially when Valentine's Day rolls around, and it seems like you're the only person not having a big ol' mushy lovefest, the only person not getting kisses, flowers, jewelry, candlelit dinners, chocolate, seductive glances, blow jobs--even a card saying "I HEART YOU."

Luckily, we can thank the Asian culture for providing a simultaneous alternative celebration that has nothing to do with gooey, icky love. You can divert your thoughts from romance by meditating on the theme of this celebration, which in 2003 goes "baaaaa baaaaa gurgle gurgle."

Just repeat that to yourself a few times ... now, who said anything about you-know-what?


The other holiday is of course Chinese New Year, and in 2003, the occasion marks a shift in the Chinese astrological calendar from the Year of the Water Horse to the Year of the Water Sheep--or Goat or Ram, depending on who you ask.

Lunar New Year 4701 is the politically correct name for the holiday, because it's also celebrated in Vietnam, Thailand and anywhere else following the ancient lunar calendar developed by the Chinese. The event starts on the second new moon after the winter solstice and goes for two weeks. In 2003, Lunar New Year is celebrated Feb. 1-15.

Various Asian traditions celebrate the Lunar New Year with different decorations and a complicated set of events, most of which have to do with welcoming the new year and attracting good luck. Many of the rituals take place at home, and the holiday is recognized as a time to return to ancestral lands to celebrate with family.

It traditionally culminates in an all-night-long public celebration full of firecrackers, banquets and lighted processions known as the Lantern Festival. Now that sure beats hanging out alone fretting about how you're not getting any and why no one wants your worthless, pitiful love, doesn't it? Yes. Yes, it does. (See sidebar for more ideas on ways to celebrate.)

Like Two Sheeps That Pass in The Night

Because it has nothing to do with sex and because it may have cosmic implications for us all, Metro Santa Cruz talked with Chinese astrologer Robert Fenwick about the significance of the Year of the Sheep in the Chinese calendar. Fenwick does private consultations and teaches classes on Chinese culture and astrology at his Santa Cruz school, the Fenwick Academy.

The Chinese calendar rotates among 12 animals for numerological reasons and for the 12-year cycle of Jupiter that astrology is based on, and it also rotates among the five elements. According to Fenwick, each element has two-year cycles of "yang" and "yin," the Chinese concepts of masculine and feminine. For example, 2002 was the Year of the Yang Water Horse, 2003 is the Yin Water Sheep, and 2004 will be the year of the Yang Wood Monkey. Sweet!

Fenwick says that the Year of the Horse that we are leaving was marked by much work and diligent activity because the Horse has a spirit of labor, yet the efforts tended to be obstructed by the year's watery quality.

"All of my clients were reporting their projects going three steps forward and two steps back," he says.

Sheep will have a flair for producing unexpected results from the difficulties of last year, making lemonade out of lemons, says Fenwick. The Year of the Water Sheep will also be much more artful and diplomatic in its style. Sheep are capable of using force and authority, but they much prefer to avoid it. He says it's a good year for people to feature their capabilities in diplomacy and team-building instead of going about things in a forceful way.

"Just in time," he laughs.

He cautions people not to confuse being nice with being weak. He says that this year is a good one for finding group consensus and surrendering to the flow of the mob. However, it may be a difficult year for rugged individualist types.

"The Sheep demonstrates there is no such thing as individuality," he says. "Sheep can produce optimum results given the people involved."

All of which makes me think, sounds like a good year for an orgy. Baa.

The Chinese New Year Haps

Looking for suggestions on how to celebrate the Lunar New Year? Of course you are!

In the Chinatown that existed in Santa Cruz on Front Street during the 1880s, the celebration was condensed into three days. Shrines were mounted to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune, stores and homes were cleaned up, debts were paid off, and the final night was heralded with thousands of firecrackers. It was the one time of year that the Chinese community opened its doors to the whites, writes local historian Sandy Lydon in Chinese Gold.

These days, the Chinese culture in Santa Cruz is too scattered to have an official celebration for Lunar New Year, but there are a few activities going on. In a few places, as in San Francisco with its grand Chinese New Year parade, the holiday has even morphed into a civic and corporate-sponsored event. Here's some info on a few ways to get your Lunar New Year groove on:

* Chinese astrologer Robert Fenwick is hosting a series of events at his residence, culminating with a Lantern Festival party on Saturday, Feb. 15, at 5pm. For information call him at 471.0388.

* The Chinese Student Association at UCSC is presenting a Lunar New Year Banquet on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 7pm in the Stevenson Dining Hall with traditional performances, food and a hip-hop group. Tickets are $6-$8. For information, call 502.4148.

* The 2003 Year of the Sheep Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco, the largest celebration of its kind outside of Asia, steps off Saturday, Feb. 15, at 5:30pm at Market and Second streets, featuring elaborate floats, marching bands, dancers, acrobats, martial artists, the newly crowned Miss Chinatown USA and the grand finale of a 200-foot Golden Dragon carried by a team of 100 men and women and accompanied by over 600,000 firecrackers. See www.chineseparade.com.

Metro Santa Cruz's No Sex Issue

More insights into abstinence from Metro writers

Sex Dwarfed: Valentine's Day is the Halloween of the Sex Machine. But hold on there, tiger--have you considered celibacy? Yes, indeed, there's a fine tradition of folk who claim we've all got something to gain from keeping it in our pants. And no, Gandhi was not just jealous because he couldn't get any. (Mike Connor)

Are You Being Served?: When it comes to sexual repression, nobody does It like the British. Or at least that's what supposedly groovy Californians like to think. Now, an exile from the Empire sets the record straight. (Sarah Phelan)

The Joy of Sex Substitutes: Lube jobs, hot wax, warm fluids, exotic rituals--it's like we never gave up sex. (Rebecca Patt)

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From the February 12-19, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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