February 12, 2021, marks Lunar New Year, the first new moon of the lunisolar calendar and one of the biggest global celebrations! While it’s perhaps most commonly associated with Chinese New Year, drawing on the Chinese zodiac, the day also marks Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Hong Kong, Tibetan, Taiwanese, Singaporean, and Mongolian New Years among others. And for those of us operating on the solar/Gregorian calendar, it certainly feels like a much-needed refresh for a year that seems to have already gone off the rails a bit, despite only being just a few weeks in!
For those who celebrate, Lunar New Year festivities include a reunion dinner — a particularly special event in which family comes together to enjoy a big feast, cleaning the home, exchanging money, and literally painting the town red. But even if we don’t take part in these cultural activities, we can all certainly appreciate what the new year signifies.
This year marks the Year of the Ox. The ox represents strength, hard work, perseverance, honesty, and positivity. Folks born in the year of the ox tend to be just that: honest, receptive, and strong. As Hong Kong-based astrologer Jupiter Lai explains, “Oxes are known for being hardworking, practical, gentle, a bit introverted, or even quite stubborn.”
On top of that, 2021 is the year of the Metal Ox. See, along with the 12 zodiac signs, we also cycle through five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, each of which has two variations. (Feel free to Google the sexagenary cycle if you want to, like me, fall down a rabbit hole of this interesting, super complex, ancient system.) The metal element adds an emphasis on firmness, stability, and determination — attributes you’d expect from, you know, metal!
If zodiac readings and predictions are your thing, or you’re just looking for guidance, the experts say it’s time to buckle down and get to work. Astrologer and Tarot reader Susan Levitt suggests incorporating more structure:
“Establish a routine, use tried-and-true methods, and stay with a structure that can bring a bountiful harvest in autumn. Daring new concepts will not be well received. Save them for the following Tiger year.”
Now, each zodiac sign will be impacted differently this year, but even if zodiacs aren’t your cup of tea, there’s definitely value in understanding and channeling what the Ox represents, particularly when it comes to work and our interpersonal relationships.
The last year brought an unprecedented amount of upheaval and suffering, and it seems like it has already taken ox-like strength and endurance to overcome and continue to live through COVID-19. But as we move further into 2021, it’s time to start slowly regaining our footing, rebuilding our foundations, and refocusing on our strength.
We all have different ideas of what strength actually means, but beyond any idea of physical or mental power or energy, strength goes hand-in-hand with empathy. Neither can really be taught. They are both the result of learning from lived experiences. The whole world undergoing a crisis together showed us how strong we can be, but it also gave us a profound empathy for each other that we will take with us.
It’s a good time to reflect on what strength means to you, how your idea of strength may have changed, and what will help you maintain your strength, whether that’s a physical activity, Zooming with friends, or simply resting.
Strength at work
Seeing as the ox is the symbol of hard work — and of all the zodiac animals, was the one that actually had a job as it was crucial for agriculture — 2021 being the Year of the Ox is particularly fitting when it comes to work.
Last year was a particularly tumultuous year for jobs, so it’s important to spend some time reestablishing some stability. That could mean getting organized and doing some decluttering to streamline your workflow. It could also mean revisiting some old work and identifying what you excel at and what needs work. Or, as Levitt suggested, establish a routine, keep it simple, and stick to it. No need to reinvent the wheel here.
We live in an increasingly fast-paced world, but the ox reminds us to watch our pace. According to Jupiter Lai, “Plans may go slowly…don’t be hasty to get the desired result. Patience is the keyword for this year.“ Deadlines are obviously very important — so is patience. There is value in taking our time and doing work diligently. There’s also value in allowing for things to fall into place, rather than trying to force an outcome. Change doesn’t happen immediately, and recalibrating our expectations to that end can help reduce stress.
And speaking of forcing outcomes, this year will also be a reminder to find the balance between being stubborn and standing up for yourself (depending on your personality). Oxen are stubborn, prudent, and can be stuck in their ways. You may be used to doing things a certain way and are cautious to try something new or are skeptical of feedback, but challenging yourself is the most important part of growing your career. Having said that, if you are normally one to take critique or feedback lying down, it may be time to tap into that ox strength and stand by your work.
For those of you wondering, this year does bode well for relationships. Lai writes, “…[T]he Ox is more patient and gentle with their partners, making it good for strengthening and maintaining relationships.”
Of course relationships don’t just get stronger on their own. They require work, care, and communication. It might even be a good time to re-establish stability in your relationships, whether intimate, friendship, or work-related. Check in with folks and start the conversation. But also be sure to stay patient, both with them and yourself. (I’m looking at you, stubborn folks.)
Whether it’s work or relationships or self-care, the Year of the Ox is also about honesty. Be honest about what you can and can’t handle. Be honest about what you really want, what your wildest dreams are. It’s time to start getting our lives back on track, and whether or not you believe in zodiacs, the Year of the Ox is a great reminder of what that will take: hard work, patience, persistence, and empathy. Good luck as you find your strength, and happy new year!
About the author.
Sam Mani writes about work, creativity, wellness, and equity — when she’s not cooking, binging television, or annoying her cat.