Holidays

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The Year Of The Ox Is Almost Here

If you thought the holiday season ended back in January, think again.

You probably stayed up until the wee hours of the morning celebrating the flip of the calendar from the unspeakable ills of the last year a few weeks ago. But, after all that 2020 had to offer, celebrating a second changing of years seems fitting. The 2021 Lunar New Year begins on Friday, Feb. 12, so go ahead and mark your calendar for this time of joyous festivities.

If you weren't already aware, Lunar New Year is actually the same as the Chinese New Year. Each year is associated with a different animal of the Chinese Zodiac, and according to chinesezodiac.org, 2021 is the year of the Metal Ox, which the website also noted is predicted to be a lucky year. (For what it's worth, they also predicted that 2020 — the year of the Metal Rat — would be lucky as well, so plan accordingly.)

Also celebrated in 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, and 2009, chinesezodiac.org explained that "the Ox has the second position in the zodiac" and is "a representation of diligence, kindness, and generosity." I'm sure we could all get on board with celebrating a year that promises to uphold these values.

The Lunar New Year is the day that marks the first new moon of the lunisolar calendar, according to O Magazine. Commonly used by many Asian countries, according to a lunisolar calendar, a lunar year is shorter than a solar year — about 354 days as opposed to 365. While a solar year measures the amount of time it takes for the Earth to orbit the sun, a lunar year is measured by 12 full moon cycles.

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Although Feb. 12 is the official date that the Lunar New Year begins, The Chinese New Year festival lasts for an entire 15 days. This year's festivities will begin on Feb. 11, the eve of the New Year, and last until Feb. 26th. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide observe the holiday with various customs, meals, and celebrations, according to USA Today. As a public holiday in mainland China, most people will be off work for the first seven days of the celebration, Feb. 11 through Feb. 17.

Although normally celebrated by gathering with family and attending parades, this year's celebrations may look a bit different thanks to the pandemic. For example, here in the U.S., NBC reported that San Francisco's traditional festival has already been canceled (although a broadcast special will still take place) and the city of Hong Kong has canceled its yearly festivities as well. But even with changes in place, the spirit of gratitude and good fortune will still be at the heart of the holiday.

The holiday celebration typically starts off with a traditional feast filled with foods that hold symbolic cultural meaning and ends with a lantern festival. "Foods like fish, fruit, and dumplings are more than mere snacks; they're symbols of luck and prosperity, and eating them is thought to invite both into your life in the days to come," O Magazine reported. So, if you're planning to celebrate the coming of the Lunar New Year, try incorporating foods like braised shitake mushrooms with bok choy, Tangyuan (sweet rice balls), or tangerines and oranges into your festivities.

Additionally, the holiday comes with a set of superstitions deeply rooted in Chinese culture. The travel site China Highlights reported that in keeping with the tradition of the Lunar New Year, avoid activities like sweeping, taking out the garbage, and washing clothes on Feb. 12. So, take the first day of the Lunar New Year to rest, and celebrate the upcoming Year of the Ox.