When Is Chinese New Year 2021 and Which Animal Is It This Year?

Chinese New Year falls on February 12 this year, marking the start of a new year on the Chinese lunar calendar. Each year is assigned one of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs (which are different animals) and 2021 is the Year of the Ox.

The Chinese calendar is made up of 12 months—alternating in length by 29 or 30 days—equivalent to 354 days. The assignment of the zodiac signs repeats every 12 years.

"The cycle of twelve animal signs derives from Chinese folklore as a method for naming the years. The animals follow one another in an established order and are repeated every twelve years - rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig," explains the V&A Museum in London.

Each animal is associated with certain characteristics, which some believe are also exhibited by people born that year.

The museum notes: "People born in the Year of the Ox are strong, reliable, fair and conscientious, inspiring confidence in others. They are also calm, patient, methodical and can be trusted. Although they say little they can be very opinionated.

"They believe strongly in themselves, but are also stubborn and hate to fail or be challenged. Although they do not lose their temper easily their anger can become explosive and impulsive. They are serious, quiet and not naturally sociable, which can make them dull. Ox people have a great deal of common sense."

In Chinese culture, the ox is valued for its role in agriculture and is attributed positive characteristics, such as being hardworking and honest.

Some historical figures and celebrities born in a previous Year of the Ox include:

  • Napoleon Bonaparte (1769)
  • Vincent Van Gogh (1853)
  • Adolf Hitler (1889)
  • Charlie Chaplin (1889)
  • Walt Disney (1901)
  • Margaret Thatcher (1925)
  • Morgan Freeman (1937)
  • Bruce Springsteen (1949)
  • Barack Obama (1961)
  • Princess Diana (1961)
  • George Clooney (1961)
  • Keira Knightley (1985)

In addition to China, the lunar new year is also observed in other Asian countries, such as South Korea and parts of southeast Asia.

Chinese New Year celebrations also take place outside Asia, including in various parts of the U.S., often in the form of elaborate parades and other festivities.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many celebrations this year have been moved online. In the U.S., the Chinese embassy has announced virtual celebrations will be held across its social media platforms and other media channels from February 6 to 11.

Last year, New Year events in the Chinese capital of Beijing as well as Shanghai and Hong Kong were canceled in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Wuhan, China, Chinese New Year 2021
A resident practices a dragon dance at the Expo Garden park in Wuhan, China on February 5 ahead of Chinese New Year celebrations. Getty Images