The Lunar New Year, opens a new window is celebrated by over 20% of the world’s population with food, festivities, and fireworks to usher in good fortune for the year to come. Although this year will be different given COVID directives, we’ve collected ideas to help you read, watch, eat, and relax your way through this enjoyable holiday.
Known as the Spring Festival in China, the celebration extends to other East Asia cultures, including North and South Korea and Vietnam. The holiday marks the transition between the Chinese zodiac signs, opens a new window in animal representations and symbolizes new beginnings. 2021 is the year of the Ox, opens a new window, moving from the year of the Rat, opens a new window in 2020. This year, the Spring Festival begins on February 12th and concludes on February 26th with the Lantern Festival, opens a new window. Check out the full New Year calendar, opens a new window.
The Year of the Ox
The Ox, opens a new window is the second of the zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor decreed the animal sequence was to be determined by the order that they appeared at his party. The Ox was about to be the first, but Rat tricked Ox into giving him a ride. Then just as they both arrived, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox. Thus, Ox became the second animal.
In Chinese culture, the Ox is a valued animal. Its positive characteristics originate from agricultural beginnings: being hardworking, honest, and low key without seeking attention or praise. Oxen tend to be kind, seldom lose their temper, are logical-thinkers, and valued leaders.
"Oxen are the hard workers in the background, intelligent and reliable, but never demanding praise."
- The firecracker legend began with a brave young boy who used them to fight off the monster Nian. The ritual continues in hopes of scaring monsters and warding off bad luck. Firecrackers are then set off again in the morning to welcome good luck in the new year.
- Children receive lucky money in red envelopes (or pockets) to help transfer fortune from elders to the children. Red envelopes can also be gifted to friends, co-workers, bosses, and employees.
- Taboos to avoid during Lunar New Year: showering, cleaning, sweeping, or throwing out trash (to not reverse the good luck), haircutting, using sharp objects like scissors and knives, breaking ceramics or glass, taking medicine, crying, arguing, swearing, and saying negative words like “sickness” and “death.”
Bay Area events 2021
Eleven Ox sculptures around the Bay Area created by local artists replace the traditional San Francisco Chinese New Year parade. Read more in Ox on Parade, opens a new window.
Visit the Southwest Airlines Float Display, opens a new window at Pier 27, Cruise Terminal Plaza, San Francisco, February 13-14 and February 20-21, noon to 8 pm.
Watch the virtual Southwest Airlines Festival and Parade Special, opens a new window, Saturday, February 20th, @ 6 pm, Fox 2 KTVU and KTSF26.
Browse these resources to read, make, and view
Recipes for enthusiastic cooks, opens a new window The New York Times
Asian cookbooks for foodies, opens a new window Hoopla (eRead now, no wait!)
Asian legends, myths, fables, opens a new window Hoopla Kids (eRead now, no wait!)
Cheers to new beginnings in 2021! Happy New Year! 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè)
Chinese New Year, opens a new window [website]
Sifton, Sam. (2021, February 3). Get ready for Lunar New Year, opens a new window. At Home: What to Cook. The New York Times [newspaper online]