When is the Chinese New Year and what is the meaning of the zodiac sign?

Chinese dragon dancers perform at a fair at a local park on the fifth day of the Chinese Lunar New Year on February 1, 2017 in Beijing, China for the Year of the Rooster (Getty Images)

The Chinese New Year is celebrated on Friday 12 February 2021.

The festival sees typically members of the Chinese community across the world welcome the 2021 Year of the Ox, decorating their homes in the lucky colour red and attending parades as they wish for a happy and prosperous year ahead.

This year, however, celebrations will be different due to the pandemic.

Here is everything you need to know about the Chinese New Year and the meaning of the Year of the Ox:

When is the Chinese New Year and how is its date decided?

This year, the first day of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar Near Year, falls on Saturday 25 January.

The day on which the celebration occurs on the Gregorian calendar varies on an annual basis, as its date is determined by the lunisolar Chinese calendar.

The festivities will last for just over a fortnight, culminating with the Lantern Festival on Saturday 8 February.

The Lantern Festival, otherwise known as the Spring Lantern Festival, begins on the 15th day of the first lunar month.​

What is the significance of the Year of the Ox?

The arrival of the 2021 Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox.

The years on the Chinese calendar are divided into 12-year cycles, meaning that the next Year of the Ox will occur in 12 years’ time.

Last year marked the Year of the Rat, the first animal on the Chinese zodiac, while 2021 will signify the Year of the Ox, the second in the cycle.

Some view the ox as being symbolic of hardworking attitudes and reliability because of its role in agriculture.

According to the myth, the Jade Emperor organised a race for a group of animals on his birthday, the results of which determined the order of the Chinese zodiac.

Legend goes that the rat was able to hitch a ride on the back of the ox, jumping off at the finish line in order to win first place and be named the first animal in the cycle.

The Travel China Guide further illustrates that those born in the Year of the Ox are known for being diligent, persistent, and honest.

People whose birth dates occurred in the Year of the Ox include those born in 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, and 2009.

Famous individuals born in the Year of the Ox include Barack Obama, George Clooney, and Malala Yousafzai.

How is the Chinese New Year observed?

In addition to China, the Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries across the world, including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Celebrations normally last for around two weeks from New Year’s Eve up until the beginning of the Lantern Festival.

The festivities traditionally begin with a thorough cleaning of the home, with red paper lanterns and banners inscribed with poetic sayings hung as decorations.

Red is believed to bring good fortune, hence its prevalence during Chinese New Year and the reason why children are given “luck money” in red envelopes throughout the proceedings.

A symbolic feast is usually eaten among family on New Year’s Eve during the Nian Ye Fan family reunion dinner, following the world’s largest mass migration undertaken by those who observe festival making their way home.

The Chinese New Year will also normally be observed with prayers recited in temples, New Year’s Day fireworks displays and lavish parades.

This year, however, celebrations will be somewhat subdued due to the pandemic. While London would typically host a major parade, the London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA) is instead urging people to follow lockdown rules and stay at home.

The LCCA is organising a “virtual celebration” that families can enjoy from home and watch via its YouTube channel on 14 February.

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