Chinese New Year
Author: Francesca Rhodes
This is the most important holiday in China, known as chunjie (春节) or the Spring Festival. It is not just a day, but almost a month-long celebration, with an important cultural significance. The New Year officially starts on February the 12th in 2021, after which there are 16 days worth of festivities. This holiday marks the end of the coldest part of winter, and welcoming of spring, with its new harvests and opportunity for a fresh start.
Originally, gods would be prayed to, and ancestors honoured, with wishes made for a rich and plentiful harvest. Many of the traditions still survive, such as the myth of the monster named Nian (年), who would arrive every New Year’s Eve to scare people. Legend has it that one brave little boy was able to frighten off the monster using firecrackers, which are now featured every year.
The colour red is also believed to scare Nian away, and so this is used in many of the Chinese New Year decorations, alongside dazzling gold. Red lanterns, paper and even chili peppers decorate houses and parades, creating a beautiful and striking atmosphere.
The Chinese zodiac, or Sheng Xiao (生肖), is a repeating cycle of animal signs, each with different personality traits, based on the lunar calendar. They are believed to have originated from zoolatry, which means animal worship, and specifically the Qin Dynasty, which existed more than 2,000 years ago. Another legend dictates that the Jade Emperor summoned all the animals to his palace in a Great Race, and the order in which they arrived created their place in the zodiac.
While many people assume that your zodiac year (which occurs every 12 years) is lucky, it is actually more of a test, where you must protect yourself against evil spirits throughout the year. Follow this link to find out what your zodiac sign is, along with the main personality traits of your animal!
The Year of the Ox
Last year (2020) was the year of the Rat, and from the 12th of February 2021, it will be the year of the Ox. These animals are hard workers, with a strong sense of responsibility, who never give up, no matter how difficult things may become. Their work involves lots of planning and preparation, in order to prepare for hard times. Perhaps we can feel inspired by the Ox while we are in lockdown, and find the strength to get through this unusual period.
Draw Your Own Zodiac Sign
Time to get creative– why not have a go at drawing your Zodiac sign? You can copy your Chinese symbol, perhaps using black paint and a white piece of paper, using generous, expressive brush-strokes. Alternatively, you could draw, colour or paint your animal sign. Will you go for a cartoon, or realistic style?
Here’s an example by the brilliant Jon Shariat.
Take photos of your art work and tag us #ArtAtTheHeartZodiac
Make Your Own Ox Mask
Celebrate the Year of the Ox with your very own mask. Masks and elaborate costumes are often used within Chinese New Year parades, in brilliant colours of red and gold.
Head on over to our everyday creativity page to download the printable ox mask templates designed by our young illustration graduate, Jon Shariat. Mount onto recycled card (a cereal box perhaps?), add colour and decoration to make a mask fit for one of the most important cultural celebrations of the year. And don’t forget to share your creations with us via social media 😊.