Did you know? Chinese New Year celebrates the 'Spring Festival'; a centuries-old event which is unique to the Chinese calendar. It is associated with the solar term “Start of Spring” – one of the 24 solar terms refer to specific occasions indicating seasonal changes in the Chinese lunar calendar. It is established according to the change of the Earth's position on the ecliptic (the plane of the orbit on which the Earth rotates around the sun). The idea of the 24 solar terms was listed by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. In the international meteorological community, the 24 solar terms are known as "China's fifth great invention." The other four Chinese great inventions are: papermaking, gunpowder, printing and the compass.
Something Mythical - The 12 Animals & The Ox
The Chinese zodiac is a mathematical cycle of 12 animals. Each animal represents one year. People are associated with the zodiac animal for the year they are born. The 12 animals in order are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Zodiac animals can also represent hours of the day, and even directions.
The myth about the ox is that the ox was sent from heaven to earth to help humans who just started to work on agriculture but still were suffering starvation. The ox aid suffering humans and took a very important role in farming ever since. The year of the Ox is time for honesty, hard work, duty, and discipline. Like Ox plowing the field, success is attained through diligent work and conscientious effort.
Things to Do at Home
- Wear something red! The mythical monster 'Xi' is much afraid of the colour red. (Xi is a monster that looks like the combination of a lion and a dragon. It appears during the eve of the Spring Festival to hunt people and their livestocks). Chinese people clothe themselves and their children in red, put up red posters and couplets, hang red lanterns and make their home as red as possible! Dress yourselves to “stay safe” and be lucky!
- Set your new year resolution. It is the start of the lunar year calendar and a good time to make a new wish to work on in the next 365 days!
- Eat delicious dumplings! Find online video tutorials to learn to make dumplings. Plenty of fun and messy play is guaranteed! Or, visit Chinese supermarkets in Chinatown or locally to get read-made dumplings to cook at home.
- Call or visit your relatives. Chinese grandparents love CNY as they can reunite with their grandchildren on this day if they don't live together.
- Achieve something to prove that you are 1 year older! No matter when your birthday is, this is the day everyone grows older. Maybe you can brush your own teeth, wash your own dish or tidy your room as a start!
How to set your Chinese New Year vibe this year?
- Watch online CNY gala broadcasts. A Guinness World Records keeper of the world's most watched television programme. It often features music, dance, comedy and drama performances by talents and stars. Look up key word "CCTV New Year's Gala" (CCTV means China Central Television).
- Visit the V&A website to see objects depicting an ox from all around the world.
- Attend the live event Chinese New Year 2021 organised by The Royal Museums Greenwich on 13 February 2021 to have some family fun.
- Make a lucky fish CNY poster created by myself as a commissioned work for the National Maritime Museum! Be creative!