Happy Lunar New Year! Today we celebrate the Chinese New Year as we welcome the year of the metal Ox. In Chinese astrology, each year is represented by one of 12 animals that run through a 12 year cycle. Each animal is accompanied by an element, both of which represent certain characteristics of the year. The celebration does not have a fixed date each year but rather takes place on the second new moon after the winter solstice. There are 15 days of celebration following the new year involving rituals of renewal and cleansing. This rich Chinese tradition is filled with metaphor, history and storytelling. All debts are to be paid by this day to ensure good fortune for a new year and it is custom to gift “lay-see” or lucky money to friends and family. It is a time for celebration, laughter and renewal.
Suzuki Harunobu (1724-1770) Oxen and Plum Trees -- Woodblok print; ink and color on paper
The Ox makes house in the second position on the Chinese zodiac, following 2020, the year of the rat. This is an opportunity to integrate the lessons we learned in 2020, moving forward with more stamina, structure and diligence.
As with many of the animals on the Chinese zodiac, the origin of the Ox begins in the cosmos. The divine gods in the heavens plucked the Ox star from the sky and sent her to earth to aid the starving and struggling humans. They instructed her to help increase their agricultural yields so that they could eat once every three days. The Ox mistakenly told the people of earth that with her help, they could eat three times per day. She misunderstood the instructions from the gods and soon realized she would have to work diligently to make her words ring true. The Ox endures many burdens without complaint, working honestly and diligently to uphold her word.
The Ox is a powerful symbol for hard work, accountability, discipline and duty. Like the Ox working in the field, success is only obtained by conscientious effort. It is a great year to anchor and and complete the work that was started in 2020, the year of the rat. Find a rhythm, establish a routine and with discipline, follow it all the way through. With dedicated efforts, the bounty will be reaped. This process will prepare you for the year of the tiger, 2022, when everything you are working towards can spring into action.
The influences of metal this year are significant. Metal is associated with clean, pristine, and minimal environments. It is an excellent time to clean out the house, closets, garages, any place you spend a significant amount of time in. Let the old out and to make space for the new. In Chinese medicine, metal is connected to the lungs — an organ that has been in the public spotlight for some time now. It is important to take note of personal health during this time — maybe creating some boundaries or making other health-related commitments to work on.
I have a special connection to the Ox. In 2009, I was finishing my last year of college. I was working on a BFA in printmaking from the University of Utah and I suddenly became obsessed with the cow, the ox, the great ruminant. I created an entire series of prints based on this beautiful creature. I even printed a 30x40 inch 5 color self portrait as a cow. Unfortunately, most of those designs went down with my old computer but the prints are floating around out there in the world somewhere.
What’s most interesting to me is that, at the time, I paid no attention to the fact that it was the year of the ox. I may have thought it was interesting, to be honest, I don’t completely remember. But looking back now, I can see it so clearly. My connection to this creature was in some way, giving me information I needed to know. I was unconsciously aware of this energetic influence and that came out, almost accidentally, in my work. Working diligently towards my degree in the year of the ox, I literally pulled it onto the canvas. I will forever consider myself as an artist, a creator — but now, later in my life, weaving the story of printmaking and plants, I can see why. The artist makes something out of nothing. The artist transforms an idea into a creation. Even now, I still consider my work to be art. And I am so grateful for every moment I get to spend working with the true artist friends I’m hanging out with these days, my plants.
John Cimon Warburg (1925) Cow on Saltburn sands -- Autochrome lumière print
Today, open your doors and windows, let the old air out and the new pour in! If you wish to celebrate the Lunar New Year for 15 days, here are some of the traditional Chinese customs.
Element of METAL : clean, tidy, pristine, minimal
Color of RED : brings good fortune and happiness
The gods of the heaven and earth are welcomed. Vegetarian food is shared openly to promote longevity and happiness.
Prayers are made to the gods and ancestors for luck and renewal.
Extended family comes to visit, paying respect and honor to those who are recently married.
Men in the family pay respects to their in-laws.
Po Woo - Welcoming the God of Wealth. The day is spent at home to bring wealth and good fortune into the home.
Visiting with family and friends, sharing food and sending prayers to the gods for good fortune.
The birth of all humans is celebrated with a traditional vegetable drink. Raw fish is often shared and consumed to promote success and longevity.
The day of prayers sent to the god of the heavens, celebrating all things divine and sacred.
Offerings and prayers are made to the Jade Emperor, the first god, ruler of all the heavens.
Day 10 - 12
It is tradition to host friends and family for dinner on these days, celebrating community and bounty.
A simple day of detoxification after family and friends, green vegetables and vegetarian food is served. Rest and recuperation is encouraged.
Today the family makes final preparations for the Lantern Festival.
The Lantern festival is a celebration on the first full moon following the Lunar New Year symbolizing the reunion of the family and the return of spring.
Traditional vegetarian Jai is prepared and shared as the community gathers to release thousands of lanterns into the sky. Jai is an important staple on this day and is make of foods that represent the new year.
Lotus seed — brings hope for male offspring
Ginko nút — inviting wealth and prosperity
Dried bean curd — hope for wealth and happiness
Bamboo shoots — good wishes for everything
Oranges bring food luck on the Lunar New Year
Pomegranates seeds symbolize fertility and the red color of the juice keeps evil spirits at bay
It is custom to serve a whole fish to symbolize abundance. Traditionally, no white foods are consumed during the Lunar New Year celebrations as they are thought to be unlucky.
However you choose to celebrate today, we wish you abundance and good fortune during the year of the Ox! Harness the characteristics to the Ox and move through the year with diligence and stamina.