Today in 2 February 2011 and I am far removed from the Asian Continent but it was good to receive emails from countries with sizeable Chinese populations and also from Vietnam and the Vietnamese abroad about the celebrations that have been taking place and will continue to take place to bring in the New Year of the Rabbit.
Happy New Year to All of you, my Chinese and Vietnamese Friends
What was surprising was a telephone message from my Kickapoo sister who said, I am off to our ancestral village in Mexico to celebrate the New Year. No they have not taken to celebrating the Chinese or Vietnamese New Year but are keeping their tradition of their New Year, which is a very important occasion for them.
In fact all members of the tribe, regardless of where they are working, would converge into their ancestral properties in Mexico at the shadow of the Sierra Madre Oriental.
But the welcoming of the New Year for the Kickapoo is lined with rules and regulations and responsibilities and begins long before the February or late January Date.
The roofing of their winter homes, an arduous task given to the women, had been completed and let their palms heal of their wounds of cattails reeds.
They still maintain their oral traditions and how do they know it is time for the New Year. They follow very strict rules passed on from generation to generation.
Flowering of the Black Cherry (Prunus Serotina)
Observe the constellation Pleiades. (Not so strangely enough many other tribes including the San in the Kalahari observe Pleiades). When it approaches the zenith at sunset, then the New Year is Imminent
The selected ones spend the night watching for lightning from the four directions. This is taken as a sign from the Grandfathers to let them know that the day has arrived to celebrate the New Year. If it comes from the North first, it is considered a good omen.
I cannot give you a first hand account of the New Year Clan ceremonies of the Kickapoo since even during my years of intimate association with them; I was never invited to the ceremonies. On occasions when I did find myself during some ceremony or other, I was always asked to leave the Wickiup and wait outside while the praying went on inside.
But their cousins, Meskwakia, with whom they share Language affinity are more generous. On more than one occasion they had invited me to come and participate in their ceremonies.
Those of us in the west tend to forget our tribal origins. It was not that long ago that most of us were allied within a tribal structure: whether in India or Malaysia or Bretagne or Israel.
So all my friends, who are descendants of various tribes around the world
Happy New Year to You.
(Jews generally consider themselves still to be affiliated to their tribal origin, in my opinion and I remember when I first arrived at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami as a student, I was asked whether I was MOT: member of our tribe! By Jewish professors)
The photograph above is that of Dra Estela Rosales, the most unselfish and generous doctor who like her father before her has dedicated her life to the welfare of the Kickapoo. Photo taken when she was visiting La Habana recently