Chinese New Year Day Two: Happy Birthday Toto

According to legend, day two of the Chinese New Year, called the kāinián 开年 “beginning of the year”, is the birthday of all dogs. It is customary to give them special treats, so in preparation for this I bought some dog biscuits to pass out  to all the pups.

The unused treats.

The unused treats.

Usually, there are countless dogs running around the streets of Kaohsiung. Not mangy, stray types, but ones that look taken care of. My guess is a lot of them are watched over by people in the neighborhood. In addition to these nomadic dogs roaming freely, grazing from leftovers to leftovers, there are many designer dogs the Taiwanese proudly display in the parks. They almost always dress these Pomeranians, Shih Tzus, and Pugs (to name a few) in the most ridiculous garb imaginable.

This morning I set off on a trip to Ikea and decided to bring the treats along with me, but it was like the Twilight Zone. There were no dogs to be seen anywhere, and the same went for humans as well. It was very eerie. Now that I think of it, it kind of reminds me of Thanksgiving in Washington, D.C..

My boyfriend Dominic spent his day biking in the mountains, and when he returned he reported the same thing. How bizarre. I guess part of the custom is to keep dogs inside for their birthdays? But where were all the roamers? I didn’t get to the bottom of it today, but our Taiwanese friend is coming over for dinner tomorrow and I plan on asking him.

Traditionally, today is also the day married women visit their birth families. I guess this stems from the days when women travelled far away to live with their in-laws after marriage. Naturally, back in the days before trains, planes, and automobiles, they didn’t get to visit regularly. However, today this is an antiquated tradition seeing as families have the opportunity to visit often thanks to modern day conveniences.

Lastly, some businesses will reopen today, but traditionally most don’t reopen until later on in the New Year. The ones that do decide to reopen will hold a “Hoi Nin” prayer so they will be blessed with prosperity in the year.

Luckily, the business I work for will not reopen until next Monday, so no “Hoi Nin” prayer for me.

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