If you have a bottle of unopened champagne from January 1 celebrations laying around, dust it off for February 12—it’s Chinese New Year, not to mention the Year of the Ox!
Wait, some people celebrate the start of a new year smack dab in the middle of February?? Absolutely! February 12 marks the start of 2021 for billions of Chinese people around the world, who are pausing to say Gan-bei (“cheers” in Mandarin) and toasting to the Year of the Ox ahead. Allow me to break it all down, from how to celebrate properly to can’t-skip Chinese traditions to exactly what the Year of the Ox means for you.
Chinese New Year is not just a time for grandparents to hand out money in little red envelopes and wish you good fortune; it’s the ushering in of a new zodiac year. There are 12 Chinese zodiac signs in total: Rat, Ox, Dragon, Dog, Goat, Rabbit, Snake, Tiger, Pig, Horse, Monkey and Rooster. Much like our Western astrological star signs, the zodiacs can explain the personal traits and characteristics of a person based on the year of their birth and whatever sign that year is tied to.
2021 promises to be an exciting year for everyone born in the Year of the Ox and the people who meet them, so long as they use the year’s energy well. The Ox is disciplined, so 2021 will be lucky for those who stick to ongoing projects and build on their goals to make them successful, rather than attempting to start something brand-new.
2021 is the Year of the Ox, so if you were born in 1997, 2009 or 2021, you are an Ox. This means you are diligent, hardworking, reliable, stubborn and at times, a bit materialistic. But hey, aren’t we all? If you don’t think your sign matters, you’d be surprised to lean its significance—a person’s sign means a lot when predicting their luck and fortune, not to mention who they’re compatible with. Last year was my year, the Year of the Rat and I was advised to distance myself from people born in the Year of the Pig to avoid nasty confrontations. If you are a Horse or Monkey, you may butt heads with the Ox, so be wary. It’s their year, after all!
During this time last year, my mum also gave me a tiny red string to tie around my wrist meant to protect me from bad luck, since the color red is extremely lucky for the Chinese people. If you were born in the Year of the Ox, get yourself a red string and tie it on your wrist this year to stay safe, prosperous and lucky. You can even make it look fashionable! You can also wear lucky red underwear; just make sure it is a brand-new pair for extra luck.
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To add more oomph to your year (We all know we need it after a very subdued 2020) do as the Chinese do and increase your luck, good fortune and wealth by noshing on auspicious foods while you celebrate. One of the favorite rituals and activities of Chinese New Year is preparing delicious foods that bring positive energy and luck because of their phonetic sounds, as well as how they are prepared and served.
Each family has their own traditions and recipes but there are definitely a few must-have Chinese New Year dishes anyone can try. There’s whole fish, which mean ‘plentiful’ when directly translated from Chinese to English; dumplings, which symbolize wealth and fortune because of their shape resembling what money once looked like; noodles, which symbolize longevity and are best served as long strands; and finally, citrus fruits like pomelo and oranges, because of their intense lucky orange color and round shape, implying a well-rounded and fulfilling year.
If you’re still hungry, be sure to save room for dessert, which should be something sweet and sticky, like bouncy and chewy mochi filled with luscious red bean. Sticky mochi means togetherness and unity with friends and family, no matter where you are.
Obviously, Chinese New Year is about so much more than red undies and yummy mochi, but celebrating with beloved traditions is a great way to ensure you can tap into the luck of the Year of the Ox and its hardworking energy. Happy New Year! 新年快樂！