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Berger’s Burg: The Year of the Pig is hogging spotlight

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(I adore the Chinese for their strong family ties, respect for the elderly, moral values, customs that date back thousands of years, and subtle humor. I also adore my Chinese daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. This column is dedicated to them.)Whitestone's Lou DiGiorgia is a Chinese Zodiak maven. He has studied it for many years and his home is filled with books, magazines and pictures about this mystical Asian horoscope. Lou knows just about everything on the subject, so when Lou talks about it, I listen. The quoted remarks are Lou's.One month before the Chinese New Year was to begin, Lou knocked on my door to remind me that the lunar New Year will be arriving on Feb. 18 and to begin preparing my column. "And don't forget that it is the Year of the Pig." Thanks, Lou, for reminding me. But Lou, in the interest of political correctness, I will change the derogatory word "Pig" to Hog, Boar, or Swine. I don't want a billion Chinese hating me. So, Lou, here goes. On Feb. 18, millions of Asians (Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Tibetans and others) around the world will begin celebrating their Lunar New Year. It is the Year of the PigÉerr, Hog. The Chinese year is 4707 and they call it "Guo Nien." The Koreans call it "Sol-Nal" and the Vietnamese "Tet-Tet Nguyen Dan." The two-week celebration is the biggest and brightest of all Asian holidays.Preparations began weeks ago. It is family time and everyone, related or not, is welcome to the Lunar New Year's Eve reunion dinner. It is a time when gifts and oranges are exchanged. "The children receive red envelopes containing 'lai see' or lucky money, also."It is a time when banquets are shared, and fish is eaten for luck, dumplings for change, rice cakes for progress, and soup balls for unity. "The wearing of red is prevalent because it is the symbolic color of joy." The holiday honors the Pig É err, Boar (one of the 12 different animals named in a continuous 12-year cycle that imparts distinct characteristics to its year). Ironically, many dishes will be made of the animal since pork is a mainstay of Asian cuisine. As the old joke goes, if they could find a way to cook the oink, they would cook that too. "According to legend, defining a year to the porcine designates a sign of ease, family prosperity, wealth and good fortune." The Year of the Pig É err, Swine is expected to be a year of plenty, when businesses prosper, charities raise money and generosity and a feeling of well-being prevail. PigÉerr Hog people - those born in 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007 - are viewed as kind, noble, chivalrous, courageous, and sincere. They make loyal and lifelong friends, like luxury, and don't enjoy solitude. And, they have a keen intellect, set high goals, are very good students, brave, na•ve, pig-headed, gullible and are very honest, which can sometimes land them into trouble."Contrarily," says Lou, "they can be tactless, obstinate, materialistic mischief makers, prone to marital strife. But the coming year life should be stabilized for them, with no serious setbacks. However, health problems need to get prompt attention. And, incidentally, Boars should avoid other Boars and should marry a Rabbit or a Sheep (the person, silly, not the animal)."Famous PigsÉerr, Swines are Woody Allen (1935), Billy Crystal (1947), and Glenn Close (1947). Lou guarantees that the Year of the Swine will not be a "boar"-ing year.Gloria and I agree that one of the best things about this celebration is enjoying the festival at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Bay Terrace's Tofu, where I will feast and read the fortune cookies. A few examples of their brilliance follow:"A pig bought on credit is forever grunting.""A bird in the hand is bad table manners.""No man is lonely while eating Chinese noodles, it takes so much attention.""Words once spoken can never be recalled.""It is a bad cook who can't lick her own fingers.""If anyone disagrees with you, forget it. He has the right to his ridiculous opinion."So with a thank you to Lou for making this column one of the easiest I have ever written, and a fond wish of "Gung Hay Fat Choy" (a wish for prosperity) to all the residents of TimesLedger country. May health and wealth always come your way in this Year of the pig - yes, I finally said "pig" and I am glad.I must now excuse myself readers, to join the festivities at my favorite Chinese restaurant. Gloria, please pass the spareribs while I enhance my brilliance reading the fortune cookies. Reach columnist Alex Berger at www.timesledger.com or 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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