Dating back thousands of years and based on the lunar rather than the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New Year (CNY) begins on the first day of the new moon that appears any time between January 21 and February 20 each year. Chinese communities all over the globe celebrate Lunar New Year and it’s a major holiday here in Hong Kong (February 12 to 15 in 2021). During the festivities, people get together and welcome the new year through ancient customs that are believed to bring good fortune, prosperity and happiness.
The CNY festivities last over a fortnight in most countries. The new year period is celebrated with dragon dances, lion dances, gift exchanging and fireworks. It typically ends, with lantern festivals, on the 15th day.
We are about to enter the Year of the Ox – the Chinese zodiac calendar has a cycle of 12 years, and each year has a Chinese zodiac animal as its symbol. The 12 Chinese zodiac animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. The animals always come in the same order, so 2020 was the Year of the Rat, 2021 is the Year of the Ox, and 2022 will be the Year of the Tiger. The last Ox years were 2009 and 1997.
An ancient folk story explains how these animals made the final cut to be immortalised in the zodiac – the Jade Emperor called a race, decreeing that the first 12 animals to swim across a fast-flowing river would each have a year named in their honour. Thirteen animals lined up on the riverbank; however, the cat was pushed into the water by the rat, and was excluded from the final line-up. The rat reached the opposite bank first, by riding on the ox’s back, which is why he is the first of the 12-year cycle of animals in the Chinese zodiac.
To complicate things a little bit, the Chinese zodiac animals are combined with the five elements (metal, earth, fire, wood and water) over a 48-year cycle. 2021 is a Metal Ox Year, 2009 was an Earth Ox Year, 1997 a Fire Ox Year, 1985 a Wood Ox Year, and 1973 a Water Ox Year.
People are assigned a Chinese zodiac sign according to the year of their birth, and they are thought to display certain characteristics unique to their zodiac animal. For example, Tigers are thought to be great leaders and Goats are creative, while 2021’s herd of Oxen are said to be hardworking, dependable and determined. Barack Obama, George Clooney and Malala Yousafzai are all Oxen.
Just as people take on the characteristics of their Chinese zodiac animals, so do the years named after them. What then can we expect of 2021, the Year of the Ox? Importantly, the Ox is strong and robust, he is considered one of the most naturally healthy animals in the Chinese zodiac, so we should be in a good place to combat COVID-19. The Ox is hardworking, methodical and self-disciplined – if we follow his lead, we can expect good things. The Ox brings stability to relationships and casts a favourable eye on long-term investments.
Tags: chinese new year, Chinese Zodiac, Year of the Ox