Updated: Feb 16, 2021
Last night for about three hours nonstop, Beijing sounded like a war zone, it was raining fireworks. The air quality reading during the day was at 263, then the fireworks hit the skies quickening it with a smokey haze of wonderful colour bringing in the Lunar New Year 2021; the beginning of the year of the Ox.
We’ve all heard of the annual Great Migration when thousands of wildebeest and zebra from the Serengeti in Tanzania transition to the Masai Mara in Kenya, but in China the Chinese New Year sees the largest annual human migration in the world as millions of people on the mainland make the journey home from their workplaces. For many it's the only chance to visit their families all year. But movement this year's been abnormally static due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreaks and the restriction measures. Feeling slightly fed up as millions of others do with the restrictions and difficulties of travelling I’ve decided to stay here in Beijing.
Today is officially New Year’s Day, February 12, with China's public holiday running from February 11 to 17, but some restaurants, shops and hotels remain open. Chinese New Year is is also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, celebrating the beginning of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. It begins on the new moon that appears between 21 January and 20 February as the traditional Chinese calendar follows a Metonic cycle. The Metonic cycle is a period of 19 calendar years, basically 235 lunar months, after which the new and full moons return to the same dates of the year. My understanding of the differences between the Gregorian and a Metonic calendar is that the later features 12 months, therefore, leap years in the Chinese calendar have 13 months, unlike leap years in the Gregorian calendar in which an extra day is included. A leap month is added to the Chinese calendar approximately every three years, and returns to the same date as in the Gregorian calendar .
Alongside this, the 12 year cycle of the animal zodiac is an integral part of Chinese culture, each year is named after an animal, and if you are born in that year, you'll take some of that animal's characteristics. In addition there’s a 10 year cycle of heavenly stems. Each of the 10 heavenly stems is associated with one of the five elements of Chinese astrology: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. 2021 is a year of the metal Ox, and an Ox year occurs every 12 years. The last year of the Ox was in 2009 and the metal Ox, 1961. The Ox traditionally toils in the fields and is perceived as a hard worker, so zodiac experts believe the Year of the Ox is a period when hard work will be greatly rewarded.
After a year of high anxiety with COVID-19, will 2021 be a lucky one? Sources say, there'll be no explosive or catastrophic events, it's a favorable year for economic recovery or consolidation, a year of longterm investing. The year is also said to be a year when people will feel the full weight of their responsibilities which means that by working extra hard at something, we will get on top of it no matter how challenging the task may be.
I suspect we’ll be coming out on the other side of this pandemic, slowly, surely and with discipline so we can all recover our lives - well at least return to some semblance of normality but probably not in the same way as before. We will see....
Well, it’s almost Valentines’ day and I’ll be checking into a central Beijing hotel for a mini pampering staycation and a a long soak in a bathtub with a glass of wine in hand. Have a good month art lovers and stay safe.