The Year of the Dog

On Feb. 16,
2018, the Chinese calendar will celebrate the incoming of Year 4715, the year
of the Yellow Mountain Dog.

But
Russians are getting a jump on it.

For decades
Russians have rolled Christmas and New Year’s into one joyous, festive, family
holiday on the night of Dec. 31, complete with decorations, family traditions, gift-giving,
favorite movies, and ritual foods. Most aspects of the bash don’t change from
year to year. In fact, that’s the point: the pleasure of taking out tree
ornaments from childhood, eating Mom’s best salad “Olivier” and watching “The
Irony of Fate” with the whole family.

But in the
late 1980s and early 1990s, when horoscopes, Tarot cards, astrology, and
psychic readings flooded the country along with more traditional religious
practices, for some reason many Russians grabbed onto the Chinese new year rituals
and made them their own. So now, they’ve added a new layer to their cultural
and family traditions. Newspapers, magazines and sites are full of advice on
how to see in this new year so as to propitiate the Chinese animal god and
bring good fortune in the coming year.

2018 will
be the year of the Dog, who is either yellow or brown, depending on the land he
comes from — and, one suspects, the translation from the Chinese. This dog is
male, and he is of the Earth — specifically from the mountains, symbolized by
two peaks, side by side. He is a pack animal, loyal and loving, who occasionally
likes to run off on his own.

After 2017,
the Year of the Red Fire Rooster, characterized by whims, eccentricities, and a
fight for pecking order — anyone come to mind? — the Year of the Yellow/Brown
Male Mountain Dog has the potential to be filled with more dialog, solidarity
and cooperation.

There is,
however, the alpha male thing, which could lead to dogfights, and the pack
thing, which could lead to small, tightly-knit social groups squaring off
against one another.

But, if the
world avoids the bad alpha-male-pack behavior, it might be a year of new
philosophies of brotherhood, large-scale industrial projects that are good for
the environment, and policies of empathy and social justice.

It all
depends on you. You have to keep that Male Mountain Dog happy on New Year’s
Eve.

Where and
How to Celebrate

The Male
Mountain Dog is a pack animal, so you need to see in the new year in a pack: in
a big family group, with your friends and neighbors, at a party, in parks, or at
street festivals. If you celebrate at home, keep it lively. Dogs like to play,
so make sure there are games, dancing, running around, and general merriment.
Lifting fork to mouth and pressing buttons on the remote are insufficient
activity.

But since
dogs — especially male dogs, and most especially male mountain dogs — like to
roam, be sure to break away from your pack for a half hour or so. Go outside
and walk around, breath in some fresh air — or air filled with cordite from the
local fireworks display.

What to
Wear

Both men
and women should dress in mountain dog colors: yellow, ochre, brown, orange,
and gold. But women can also wear a little black dress because: little black
dress. And if men need to dress more formally, they might consider velvet,
presumably in honor of mountain dog’s velvety ears.

Do not,
under any circumstances, wear animal print dresses, shirts or pants. Zebra and
giraffe prints are out, and don’t even think of wearing a leopard print.  

How to
Decorate

The Male
Mountain Dog is a simple creature, not fond of extravagant decorations in his
dog burrow. He prefers something refined and tasteful — a nicely decorated
tree, a few garlands, and some fairy lights. Be sure the color highlights are
yellow, orange and gold. He may not like to eat citrus fruit, but he apparently
appreciates a well-decorated table with tangerine accents.

One source
suggests making a table arrangement out of bones to make the dog god happy. Good
luck explaining that to your Russian Granny.

To keep the
Male Mountain Dog god happy, it’s important to take down and put away all
images of felines. If you have a live feline, lock him in the closet until the
night is over.

What to Eat

Like almost
all dogs, and certainly like all mountain dogs, the yellow-brown Male Mountain
Dog will eat anything and everything. He doesn’t know when to stop, so have
lots of food on the table. And make sure there is more meat than vegetables. If
you are a vegetarian or have vegetarian friends coming over, make a dish with
soy meat. Really.

Don’ts

In addition to all the year-specific dos and don’ts, Russians have a huge list of superstitions on how to see in the new year. The main principle is: How you welcome in the new year is how you live it. Here are the main prohibitions:

Don’t have empty pockets, or it will be a year of want.

Don’t just celebrate with ladies, or there won’t be any men in your life.

Don’t serve crayfish, crab, lobster, or any fowl — the sea creatures move backwards and chickens and other birds scratch the earth backwards. That will keep you in the past and unable to move forward.

New Year’s Eve Don’ts

Don’t lend or borrow money.

Don’t break any plates; if you do, carefully gather up all the pieces and bury together far away from your house.

Don’t quarrel or fight.

Don’t take out the garbage after 6 p.m.

Don’t think of anything bad.

Don’t recall the deceased; let them rest. If you do remember them, don’t think or say anything bad about them.

Don’t clean, but don’t see in the new year in squalor. Do all your cleaning before the 31st.

Don’t see in the new year alone.

Got it? Have a wonderful, safe, fun New Year’s celebration. And keep the dog happy.

themoscowtimes.com