By Wayne Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Lunar New Year is a big deal. It has the ability to bend time and space.
Believe me — I’d know.
Here’s the evidence: I’ve never known my dad’s birthday. You might ask, what does that have to do with the Lunar New Year and time travel? Good question.
Growing up, we would celebrate my dad’s birthday. The only thing was, we’d always celebrate it on a different day. Not just a different day of the week. We celebrated it on a different day every year.
My dad was my hero, and I always felt bad because every year, I usually didn’t have a present or a birthday card ready for him since I never knew when his birthday was.
When I asked him when his actual birthday was every year, he would calmly say, “My birthday is based on the lunar calendar, so we have to look it up to know when it is this year.”
This was during a time before there was any internet, so “looking it up” was no easy task. I never actually saw my dad “look it up,” but somehow, he always figured it out. My guess is that either a compass or an abacus was involved.
Now that everything is online, they actually have lunar calendar calculators that can accurately determine your birthday every year and how old you are.
Wait a minute — you need a calculator to figure out how old you are?
Yes, you do. You see, there are fewer days (354.37) in a lunar year, therefore using a lunar calendar means that you are actually older than if you used a Gregorian/solar calendar. This is why the actual Lunar New Year day changes from year to year.
Therefore, based on a Gregorian calendar year, I’m 51 years old. Based on a lunar calendar, I’m 53 years old.
So let’s get this straight — with a Gregorian calendar, I know exactly how old I am, and the day I celebrate my birthday stays the same year after year because nearly everyone else on the planet uses this calendar system. When a lunar year is applied to the standardized solar year, not only do I not know when my birthday is every year, but the day changes annually and it turns out I’m two years older than I really am.
And the reason this is a good thing is …
Actually, I can think of a number of reasons why using a lunar calendar makes a lot of sense.
I’ll be able to collect social security two years early.
If you hate surprise birthday parties, no one will ever be able to throw one in your honor since no one will ever know when your birthday is.
If you do like birthday parties, use both calendars and guess what? Double the presents!
At the county fair, you can go up to the booth where they guess your age and you’ll be able to clean up on the joint.
It is the Year of the Monkey. Have fun and here’s hoping the next year is full of fortune and prosperity! (end)
Wayne Chan’s musings on Asian American life is our longest still-running column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.