February 12 Marks Lunar New Year, Beginning the Year of the Ox

the lunar new year, china's biggest holiday, begins the year of the metal ox

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

The Lunar New Year on February 12 welcomes the Year of the Ox, AZ Central reported. The lunar calendar marks a new moon on February 11, making the 12th the first day of the new year. The Chinese zodiac dates back to the Han Dynasty.

Chinese zodiac calendar
Each year of the Chinese zodiac calendar features a specific animal, repeating in a 12-year cycle. Originating from the Han Dynasty, it is based on the lunar calendar. Photo By Lukas Kurka / Shutterstock

According to AZ Central, the Lunar New Year is upon us. “The new moon on February 11 heralds a new year that begins on February 12, according to the lunar calendar,” the article said. “This month also marks the end of the Year of the Rat and the beginning of the Year of the Ox, according to the Chinese zodiac.

“The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday of the year in China. It’s usually marked by the 15-day Spring Festival, during which many people travel home and host family reunions.”

Although the coronavirus pandemic has put a limit on Lunar New Year festivities for the second year in a row, the Chinese zodiac is a tradition that dates back 2,000 years.

Animal Astrology

“During the Han Dynasty around 2,000 years ago came the invention of what is now called the Chinese zodiac,” said Dr. Bradley E. Schaefer, Distinguished Professor and Alumni Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University, in a lecture for The Great Courses.

“This is the cycle of 12 animals, one each assigned to Chinese years. These animals are the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, and so on, up to the Pig.”

Dr. Schaefer said that each animal has a complex set of compatibilities and antagonisms in relation to the other animals in the cycle, which is used as a guide for giving advice on love and marriage. Astrologers would locate the planets in the night sky and compare their positions in relation to constellations called lunar lodges. Then, they would check the date and time of those positions against the various calendar cycles to assign astrological meaning.

The Metal Ox

Dr. Schaefer said that each planet was connected to one of the five elements: metal, wood, fire, water, and earth. Each of the planets were also connected to a color: either white, azure, black, vermillion, or yellow. Additionally, they were assigned a totem animal from a large constellation. The totem animals were a tiger, a tortoise, a bird, and two dragons.

“Each lodge was connected to a state or province within China and also connected to one of the four palaces, and then connected to an animal, a direction, a season, a color, and an element,” he said. “Each element is then connected to a climate, a taste, and several body parts. Each lodge is also connected to either yin or yang, and through this can be connected to the many dualities in life.”

Astrologers would analyze all these things together and give customers an interpretation of how they related. For example, Dr. Schaefer said that on his birthday, the Sun had just entered the lunar lodge of Wei, in the eastern palace, which represents the tail of the azure dragon. This forms astrological associations with the color azure, the dragon, the east, the springtime, wood, Jupiter, wind, a sour taste, the liver, and the eye.

“We see that most anything can be connected with most anything,” he said. “This gives the astrologer an incredibly large array of choices as to which connections to highlight. Presumably, the prudent astrologer would select out the connections that most benefit their relation with the client.”

2021 is the Year of the Metal Ox.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily

This article contains material taught by Dr. Bradley E. Schaefer for his course The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy. Dr. Schaefer is Distinguished Professor and Alumni Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University (LSU). He earned his undergraduate and PhD degrees in Physics, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.