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Chinese New Year (also called the Lunar New Year) occurs in the early months of our calendar year, typically January or February and this year falls on January 23rd. This is the first of 15 days of celebration and the start of the Year of the Dragon.

Year of the Dragon
In Chinese tradition, each year is dedicated to a specific animal. The Dragon, Horse, Monkey, Rat, Boar, Rabbit, Dog, Rooster, Ox, Tiger, Snake, and Ram are the twelve animals that are part of this tradition. In 2012, the Dragon is welcomed back after the 2011 year of the Rabbit. Each of these animals are thought to bestow their characteristics to the people born in their year.

While the Year of the Rabbit was characterized by calm and tranquility, the Year of the Dragon will be marked by excitement, unpredictability, exhilaration and intensity. The Rabbit imbues people with a sense of cautious optimism, but people respond to the spirit of the Dragon with energy, vitality and unbridled enthusiasm, often throwing all caution to the wind – which can be an unwise move: The Dragon is all about drama but if you take unnecessary risks, you may find yourself starring in your own personal tragedy.

The Dragon’s Personality
People born under the Dragon are passionate, brave and self-assured. At their best they are pioneering spirits; at their worst, they epitomize the old adage: Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Dragons are generous with their resources, a tendency that at its most negative can reflect a foolhardy attitude towards money. But Dragons in general are blessed with good fortune. They are smart, enterprising and have a wicked sense of humor. They have a natural flair for fashion and are the people to consult if you want to catch up on the latest trends.

This Chinese New Year 2012 ushers in the Water Dragon. Water exerts a calming influence on the Dragon’s innate fire. Water Dragons are more open to other people’s opinions than other Dragons which gives them the ability to channel their personal charisma into real leadership qualities.

Famous celebrities born in under the Dragon include John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Al Pacino, Marlene Dietrich and Matt Dillon. The Dragon’s lucky color is yellow.

The Dragon and Love
Dragons are passionate. They fall in love quickly – and out of love just as quickly. Their charisma and charm is an immense draw to people of the opposite sex whose attention and admiration they crave. Though they have a tendency to treat love like a game, they can settle down when they meet the right partner, someone who’s strong enough not to be bowled over by the Dragon’s flamboyant, independent and stubborn personality.

The Dragon’s ideal partners are the Rat, the Monkey, and the Rooster: The Rat is practical, observant and resourceful, able to help the Dragon when extravagant promises have backed the Dragon into a corner. The Monkey is just as popular as the Dragon, curious, intellectual and fun-loving, one of the few personalities the Dragon doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight with. The Rooster can give the Dragon a run for the money on the fashion-forward front; attractive, well-groomed, fiercely loyal and committed to honesty, the Rooster serves as the Dragon’s reality check, keeping the Dragon from making promises that he or she can’t keep.

The Dragon and Wealth
Dragon years are lucky for anyone thinking of starting a business or initiating a new project of any sort because money is easier to come by for everyone, whether it’s earned, borrowed or received as a gift. Consequently we can expect the economic downturn to ease up a bit in the coming year. Fortunes can be made but they can also be lost: Keep in mind like all good things, the Year of the Dragon will come to an end and you will be held accountable for unreasonable extravagances.

Dragons do well in professions that give them the ability to function somewhat autonomously. They make excellent sales people, publicists, political campaigners, lawyers, real estate brokers, actors and politicians.

Chinese New Year is a lively celebration in Thailand, with dragon dances, fireworks, and banquets prepared on the streets for the benefit of ancestral spirits particularly in Samphanthawong District, the largest China Town in Thailand. Well–known for its streets of goldsmiths and numerous restaurants serving tasty Chinese cuisine, Bangkok’s Chinatown “Yaowarat” is filled with people who still preserve a distinctly Chinese way of life, including both tradition and culture. That’s why the Chinese New Year celebration in this area is a major festival and is well organized every year.

In China Town and elsewhere throughout the kingdom, lion and dragon dances are performed to ward off evil spirits, martial arts demonstrations are staged at various venues, Chinese street operas are staged along major thoroughfares and finally, fireworks are lit to mark the end of the new years celebration.

Thousands of Buddhist monks took part in a ceremony in Bangkok’s shopping district on May 8, 2011. Numbering 12,600, according to organizers, the monks attended the ceremony on Vesak Day, the annual celebration of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. The event was organised to pay homage to the Lord Buddha and to give moral support to the Buddhist monks and novices from the troubled southern provinces of Thailand. This year marks 2600th anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

In Buddhism, alms or almsgiving is the respect given by a lay Buddhist to a Buddhist monk, nun, spiritually-developed person or other sentient being. It is not charity as presumed by Western interpreters. It is closer to a symbolic connection to the spiritual and to show humbleness and respect in the presence of normal society. The visible presence of monks and nuns is a stabilizing influence. The act of alms giving assists in connecting the human to the monk or nun and what he/she represents.
12600 Monks where given respect this morning at Central World Plaza in Bangkok by thousand of Buddhists in white dresses and shirts.

After chanting and a sermon, the monks then started to file down the paths between an estimated crowd of 100,000 lay people. In normal alms giving events that I have attended, the monks would start accepting alms straight away. However, as there were 12,600 here it wasn’t possible. So, they all filed down to the end first. Once all of the monks were on the red carpet, the lay people then started offering food to the monks at the same time.

The majority of alms offered were dried food as well as personal necessities such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste. Like the mass alms giving in Samut Prakan, most of the donated food will be sent to 286 temples in the deep south of Thailand. Proceeds will also be used to sponsor the Robe Offering Ceremony for the entire year.

Due to the on-going troubles in the four southernmost provinces in Thailand, it is not easy for the monks living there to go out on their daily alms rounds. In fact, monks have been targeted and shot dead in the past. The event today was organized to give them both moral support as well as dried food.

Wat Rong Khun, the stunning White Temple, its facade shimmering in the sun from thousands of tiny mirrored pieces inserted into its gleaming white surface. This temple, which is in Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand, is more well-known among foreigners as The White Temple.

The temple is located in Ban Rong Khun, about 13 kilometres south-west of Chiang Rai city along Phahonyothin Road. It is the brainchild of Thai artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat who started building it back in 1998.In an interview, he said that “maybe in 60 to 90 years after my death will the projected be completed”.

Chaloemchai Khositphiphat, in his lifetime has become a great Contemporary Thai artist that is admired by many people. He has not only revitalized an interest in the ancient Thai murals found in temples, but he has at the same time produce his only unique style. Most obvious is the choice of white for the temple while others are golden. He said that he believes that gold is only suitable for people who lust for evil deeds.

The attention to detail in the temple is remarkable and you do need to spend some time here studying the beautiful artwork. To reach the temple you have to cross a bridge over a pit of hell. Down below there are sculptures of people who are presumably trying to escape from hell. Inside the temple is a beautiful coloured mural of the Buddha. If you take a close look at the devil you will see small portraits of Bin Laden and George Bush in the Devil’s eyes. Across from the Buddha images, the artist has painted a montage of recent events, including the plane flying into the Twin Towers.

One of the new buildings is this Golden Toilet which is probably the most beautiful rest room in Thailand. Surprisingly it is also free, the same as for entry to the White Temple. Though obviously donations are welcome as up-keep of all the buildings is never-ending. You can buy reproductions of Chaloemchai’s impressive artwork in the souvenir shop. The White Temple is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.