While most of us celebrated the new year a few days ago, for almost a fifth of the world’s population the big day is still to come.
January 23rd 2012 marks the Chinese New Year and ushers in the Year of the Dragon, and not just any dragon…the Yang Water Dragon. The 64 million dollar question for us gamblers, particularly the superstitious among us, will the Water Dragon bring good or bad fortune?
Before I get to that, a quick lesson in the Chinese zodiac (or Shēngxiāo).
The Shēngxiāo (生肖)
There are 12 signs in the Chinese zodiac and years are named after these signs in ordered cycle. The signs in order are Rat (鼠), Ox (牛), Tiger (虎), Rabbit (兔), Dragon (龍), Snake (蛇), Horse (馬), Goat (羊), Monkey (猴), Rooster (雞), Dog (狗) and Pig (豬).
We’re currently in the Year of the Rabbit; the Dragon will run from 23 January 2012 until 9 Feb 2013 and then it’ll be Snake and so on. The annual periods follow the lunisolar Chinese calendar which is a bit out of sync with the Gregorian calendar hence the different new year dates.
So far so good (and simple). But is gets a little more complicated because as well as the 12 animals there are five elements - Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water that are also applied in cycle but rotated every 2 years (2012 and 2013 will both be Water years). Then there’s Yin and Yang which alternate every year. So while we get a Dragon year every 12 years, a Yang Water Dragon only comes around once every 60 years.
The important bit – is the Yang Water Dragon auspicious!
2011 has been a tough year. Stock markets plunged, European governments continued their march to the brink of bankruptcy, Japan had its horrific tsunami and I certainly didn’t hit that streak at the live tables that was supposed to make 2012 my retirement year. The Rabbit has not been lucky.
According to the Shēngxiāo the Rabbit is gracious (a trait that smacks of defeat), kind (doesn’t help you win), sensitive (does this help with anything?) and a bunch of other things but not lucky. His foot might be…but remember this means the rabbit got shot, stuffed and had a limb amputated – much like Greece must feel presently.
The Dragon is a very different story. It’s considered the supreme sign and a symbol of good fortune. For starters, it’s special because it’s the only one of the 12 signs that is a mystical creature rather than an actual animal. But beyond that it is held in high regard as a symbol of authority, dignity, honor, success and yes…. luck! Emperors liked to associate themselves with the dragon, adorning ‘dragon robes’ and sitting on ‘dragon thrones’. As for the rest of us, we’re more likely to go with a dragon tattoo than a rooster or a goat across the back.
Ever heard of the game Rat Bonus Baccarat? No? How about Pig or Dog Bonus Baccarat? You wouldn’t have because they don’t exist. Dragon Bonus Baccarat does and it’s named for the auspicious connotations brought by the dragon.
As for the water element, it symbolizes wealth so we’re 2 from 2 in 2012!
It’s not all good however, because the dragon does have an unpredictable side. There is a maxim that goes something like, “The Dragon changes shape quickly, taking those unprepared by surprise!” Along with it’s spectacular successes it can bring devastating failure – a roller coaster ride all too familiar to regulars at the casino tables!
恭喜发财 | 恭喜發財 | Congratulations and be prosperous
To be honest I’m not overly superstitious so won’t change my playing habits once the Dragon replaces the Rabbit watching over my blackjack game.
I am however one for celebrating big occasions, so to all those observing the Chinese new year, congratulations and be prosperous. Or as the kids apparently say… 恭喜發財,紅包拿來 …congratulations and be prosperous, now give me a red (money) envelope!