Friday, 12 February, 2021 is “Chinese New Year,” one of the globe’s biggest annual celebrations as a fifth of humanity celebrate with rice cakes and dumplings despite it being a mostly virtual event this year.
However, as well as also being called “Spring Festival” it’s also referred to as “Lunar New Year.”
Why? What has this occasion go to do with the Moon? How is Chinese New Year calculated and why is Chinese New Year always on a different date? What Chinese New Year animal are you? And what is a “lunar year” anyway?
Here’s everything you need to know about the “Year of the Metal Ox,” which Chinese animal you are, and how astronomy dictates one of the planet’s biggest celebrations.
When is Chinese New Year in 2021?
The Chinese New Year 2021 date is Friday, February 12. What determines its date? Chinese New Year 2021 starts on the day after the first New Moon that falls between January 21 and February 20 each year—which this year occurred on Thursday, February 11, 2021—and ends on the first full Moon of the lunar calendar two weeks later. This new year begins on February 12, 2021 and ends on January 31, 2022.
What is the Chinese New Year animal for 2021?
The Chinese New Year 2021 animal is the Ox. Each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac (literally “circle of animals”), which is based on the Moon and has a 12 year cycle. Interestingly, so does the planet Jupiter, which takes about 12 years to orbit the Sun. However, there is also a cycle of five elements—wood, fire, earth, metal and water—which together creates a 60 year cycle. So in 2021 it’s the “Year of the Metal Ox,” which hasn’t happened for 60 years.
The Ox represents the first year of the 12-year zodiacal cycle, with 2020 being the “Year of the Metal Rat.”