Chinese couples are stampeding to get hitched before the Year of the Horse starts next week [2002-02-12 CE], spooked by a cosmological sign that the coming lunar year bodes ill for newlyweds.
Couples Stampede To Wed Asian Wall Street Journal, 2002-02-09 CE
Traditionally hailed as a year for bumper harvests and more recently a time for strong economic production, this time the Year of the Horse has been dubbed the "year of the widow".
Many of China's marriage-minded, anxious to tie the knot in the waning days of the Year of the Snake, have rushed to government offices to get certificates stamped and packed wedding photo studios to pose in gowns and tuxedos.
Others with cold feet are simply reining in their plans to wed till the Year of the Goat arrives in 2003.
Why all the fuss? Call it celestial imbalance, or more simply, a calendar glitch. Because the Year of the Horse pulls out of the gate late on February 12, and reaches the finish line early on January 31, 2003, its lunar cycle never crosses paths with the auspicious start of spring, or lichun, on the ancient farmer's calendar.
In short, it has no date to mark the start of spring earning it another nickname that translates literally as the "Year of the Blind".
"This Year of the Horse is missing that period, so we call it incomplete," explains Tao Lifan, a professor of Folk Culture at Beijing's Nationalities University.
By contrast, the Year of the Snake enjoyed a bonus week marking the start of spring it fell on February 4, offering "double happiness" for newlyweds in 2001-2.
"That's one reason why they're hurrying to get married now," said Fan.
The Chinese Calendrics software can be used to ascertain whether
the "start of spring" occurs once, twice or never in a particular lunar year.
Lunar Calendars Date/Calendar Software Hermetic Systems Home Page