The Year of the Ox signals strength, perseverance

Practicing writing in the Chinese alphabet at the Lunar New Year 2020 celebration. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami
By Ashley A. Williams

Practicing writing in the Chinese alphabet at the Lunar New Year 2020 celebration. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

The Year of the Ox signals strength, perseverance

By Ashley A. Williams
Asian American Student Association members explain the importance of the Lunar New Year 2021 and share memories of past celebrations.

Goodbye Year of the Rat and hello Year of the Ox!

From a global pandemic to the loss of several notable figures including Kobe Bryant and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Year of the Rat was a tough one. 

The Lunar New Year typically falls sometime between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20, depending on the cycle of the moon. This year, Feb. 12 marks the first new moon in the Chinese calendar, which also symbolizes new beginnings in other East Asian countries that have large Chinese populations— including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. South Korea and Vietnam also celebrate the holiday.

In Chinese culture, the calendar plays a vital role in decision making and signifies what the year ahead will bring. Normally, the celebration kicks off with a dinner full of traditional Lunar New Year foods that are eaten to bring happiness and wealth. It ends with the Lantern Festival, which honors peace, reconciliation, and harmony. Traditional dances like the Lion Dance and Dragon Dance are performed to ward evil spirits away and bring good luck and wealth. 

Though events around the globe have been downsized or cancelled because of the pandemic, members of the University of Miami’s Asian American Student Association (AASA) share what marking the first new moon of the lunisolar calendar means to them.

Bao Duong, a junior studying neuroscience and the president of AASA, said that according to the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Ox may symbolize good fortune for all after facing a year of hardships because of the perseverance that the animal is most known for.Bao Duong

“The ox is an animal that is very necessary, in terms of agriculture—especially in Asia,” said Duong, who is a second-generation Vietnamese American. “When you think of ox, you think of someone who is incredibly hardworking and they’re dedicated, dependable, and just excited to be a team player.”

Duong added, “Lunar New Year represents a time to truly celebrate the connection of my family and loved ones. The majority of my family is in Vietnam, and so my family cooks a small feast to celebrate. It is really nice because we FaceTime our relatives and wish them good fortune during this huge holiday. Before we eat the food, it is first used as an offering for our deceased relatives where we place it on an altar. My family always gives tribute and asks them to look over us for the upcoming year."  

Her fondest memory of Lunar New Year includes cooking dishes with her mother.  "My mother's love language is always food, and so it was really special to bond with her by learning these recipes,” said Duong. “Some traditional dishes include sticky rice, steamed pork ribs, and candied pineapple and lotus seeds. The best meal has to be dumplings, typically filled with beef and finely chopped vegetables.”

Tram Huynh is a junior studying psychology and biochemistry. Customarily, in Vietnam, she said, the festivities will last for 15 days and there would be no school or work during this time.Tram Huynh

“Before the Lunar New Year, we would clean up and decorate the house with new trees and ornaments,” said Huynh. “We do all of this to wish for a prosperous new year. The best time are the first three days of the new year when we spend time visiting our families, friends, and even neighbors.”

Hunyh’s most fond Lunar New Year memory was when she and her brother were given the “most powerful responsibility” as a wish-giver.

“We were to give the best wishes to our adults, who would return us with lucky money in red envelopes,” she said. “While my brother would wish them the usual wealth, health, and love, I'd recite poems that I had compiled the night before. I took my job very seriously.”

Felix Nguyen, first year biology major and freshman liaison for AASA who is also of Vietnamese descent, celebrates Lunar New Year by going to temple and spending time with family.Felix Nguyen

“There are usually celebrations at temples and annually there’s a big event in the downtown area of my hometown, Jacksonville, Florida, where the temple that I attend has a booth set up with lots of food and various activities along with live performances,” he said.

Nguyen’s most fond Lunar New Year memory took place in Jacksonville when he got to witness his friend perform live. 

“It was really neat to see her performing live with her group and just seeing her on stage,” he said. “The food was also great, and I got to see a lot of my old friends from elementary school.”

Follow AASA on Instagram for updates on virtual events.