2021 Lunar New Year
Lunar new year 2021 celebrates the year of the Ox. Chinese new year celebrations last up to 15 days, but only the first 7 days are considered a public holiday (February 11–17, 2021).
The Ox is the second of the 12 zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order of the zodiac animals would be decided by the order in which they arrived at his party. Ox was almost the first to arrive, but Rat tricked Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox. Thus, Ox became the second animal.
Oxen are hard-working, intelligent, and reliable, while never demanding praise. In Chinese culture, the Ox is highly valued because of its role in agriculture with positive characteristics such as honesty and dependability.
Chinese New Year Origin
In ancient times, there was a monster named Nián (年). It lived at the bottom of the sea and would come up to eat livestock, crops, and even people on the eve of the lunar new year. On this day, the villagers would escape into the mountains.
One year, a beggar came to seek shelter, but everyone was hurrying away. Only an old woman took him in and he promised to chase Nián away. He then decorated the homes with red papers. At midnight, Nián lumbered in but stopped when he saw the red paper on the doors. As it roared in anger, firecrackers suddenly sounded and he trembled in fear. When he saw the beggar, dressed in red, he ran away with fear.
The villagers came back the next day and were pleasantly surprised that the homes were all still standing. They realized that loud noises and the color red were Nián’s weaknesses. This is why, on New Year’s Eve, families decorate their houses with red decorations and set off loud firecrackers at night.
Fortune Has Arrived
Chinese people also decorate their homes by hanging up certain words and phrases. The most common word is Fu, which means happiness and good fortune. It is written in calligraphy onto a square piece of red paper that are then pasted onto walls, doors, and windows.
Fu is often incorporated into other decorations, such as paper cuttings and paintings. As a play on words, many like to put Fu upside down.
The word for “upside down” (倒 / Dào) is a homophone of “here” (到). This pun represents that good fortune is coming or is already here.
Origin of Red Envelopes
During Lunar New Year, referred to as Tết in Vietnamese culture, children receive red envelopes filled with money. According to legends, there used to be an evil spirit named Sui (祟) that would appear on New Year’s Eve and pat the heads of sleeping children. The children would end up with a fever. Even if they recovered from the fever, they’d never be the same again.
One couple entertained their child with some coins at night. When he fell asleep, they placed the coins on red paper and left it by the child’s pillow. When Sui came, the coins flashed and frightened it away. From then on, parents would give children money wrapped in red paper every New Year’s Eve to ward off the bad spirit.
Red Underwear Tradition
Your zodiac animal year is called your benming year (本命年 / běn mìng nián). During that entire year, you’re prone to catching the attention of demons, meaning you may endure more misfortunes and obstacles than in other years.
The way to protect yourself is to wear red underwear. During the Liao Dynasty, the benming year was also known as rebirth. People would celebrate their rebirth with a ceremony conducted by a priestess.
To diminish or avoid bad luck, make sure to wear red underwear! And have many pairs, since it is best to wear them every day.
The Spring Festival celebration spans a total of 15 days, with different activities for each day, culminating in the Lantern Festival (元宵 / yuán xiāo). There are many styles of lanterns, from basic shapes like spheres to lotuses and even dragons! Some people write the word Fú (福), poetry, or other calligraphy on the lanterns before releasing them.
The Kongming Lantern (孔明灯 / Kǒngmíng dēng), named after Confucius, is especially important during the Lantern Festival. People write down wishes on each side of the lantern and let it fly to the heavens, hoping their wishes will come true in the new year.