Today begins the Lunar New Year festival. Happy New year! The Chinese zodiac divides years into a twelve-year cycle, each of those twelve being represented by an animal. This year is the Year of the Horse. But the zodiac also has five elements: metal, earth, fire, wood, and water, that are cycled through the years. Therefore, while the Year of the Horse comes around every twelve years, this is The Year of the Wood Horse, which happens every 60 years (just like all the other elements + animal combinations).
How do we commemorate the Year of the Wood Horse? Let’s look at some wooden horses!
A Stick Horse is a simple children’s toy consisting of a stick with a horse’s head. Children “gallop” along with the stick between their legs to signify that they are riding a horse. Illustrations and paintings show us that elaborately-made stick horses were used in the 16th century; sticks with imaginary horse heads probably go back as far as horses have been ridden. The stick horse shown is available at the NeatoShop.
Rocking horses are traditionally made of wood, although plastic is common these days, too. Children enjoy rocking on a horse whether it’s a homemade toy or the The Four Rocking Horses of the Apocalypse, by artist Carrin Welch. And some rocking horses aren’t even horses!
Classic carousel horses are works of art. The best were hand-carved from wood and painted elaborately by hand. There’s an effort to preserve and restore what few wooden carousel horses are left. You might also enjoy this video of a carousel horse race.
But the most famous wooden horse of all is the Trojan Horse. The tale is of the siege of Troy by the Greeks. After some years, the Greeks appeared to retreat from Troy, but left behind a huge wooden horse. Despite warnings from elders, the Trojans brought the horse into their citadel. That night, as they slept or celebrated their apparent victory, a unit of Greek soldiers crept out of their hiding place inside the horse and slaughtered the Trojans.
But have we really learned the lesson? The Australian TV show The Chaser’s War on Everything put that to the test, to see if people would still be fooled by a Trojan horse.