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Let us all bid farewell to 2020 and the Year of the Rat, and welcome in the new Lunar Year! As of February 12th it will be the Year of the Ox, and we want to take this time to highlight the positive qualities of the ox. Strong, persistent, patient and honest, the ox often inspires confidence in others.


So, in light of the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and with London’s Chinese New Year parade unable to go ahead as normal this year, we’ve launched our #StrongAsAnOx digital campaign as a message for us all – to stay positive, stay connected and celebrate Lunar New Year virtually.

Follow @ChinatownLondon on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (as well as Weibo and WeChat for users of those platforms) as we explore Lunar New Year customs, how to celebrate, what to eat, and importantly how you can do all of this remotely from home.

Stay tuned as Chinatown London restaurants will be offering celebratory dishes to order in for delivery or takeaway, and get ready for exclusive Chinatown-inspired recipe ideas and sweet treats in collaboration with celebrity chefs Ping Coombes, winner of MasterChef 2014, and Kim Joy, finalist on The Great British Bake Off!

Introduction to the Chinese zodiac animals and order of procession

The Chinese zodiac, or Sheng Xiao (生肖), is a cycle of animal signs that repeats every 12 years, and is based on the lunar calendar. The Lunar New Year (or Spring Festival) marks the transition from one animal to the next—and February 12th 2021 is the beginning of the Year of the Metal Ox.

The zodiac animals appear in a particular order, namely: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

The ox is the second of all zodiac animals, but it wasn’t supposed to be. According to myth, the Jade Emperor decided that the order of the animals would be the order in which they arrived at a party he was hosting. The ox was about to be the first to arrive, but the Rat tricked the ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived, the Rat jumped down and landed ahead of ox, who instead became the second animal.⁠

Ox Characteristics

Oxen are known to be the hard workers, intelligent and reliable, but who never demand praise. In Chinese culture, the ox is a valued animal because of its role in agriculture displaying positive characteristics, such as being hardworking, reliable and honest. Oxen represent strength, determination, diligence and resilience.


Why is the ox metal this year?

The Chinese calendar also rotates in 60-year cycles based on 12 earthly branches (animal zodiacs), each represented by an animal year.  In addition to this there are five element years which rotate and change with each animal every 12 years — wood, fire, earth, metal and water — and 2021 is the Year of the Metal Ox.

Each earthly branch is characterised by a yin or yang force and a fixed element. The ox’s earthly branch is associated with yin, which is slow, soft and passive. Its fixed element is earth, representing stability and nourishment.

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