The new moon this month brings Lunar New Year, and in the Chinese tradition this new year is the Year of the Metal Ox, and in the Tibetan tradition, where the new year celebration is called Losar, it is the Year of the Iron Ox. Both traditions begin with a thorough cleaning of the house before the celebration begins, to wash away all bad things from the previous year, and now that it’s begun, there is feasting with family and with friends and there are dumplings, round like the year and the sun that shines above.
Here is how the ox came to be second of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac: When the Jade Emperor announced that the order of the zodiac animals would be determined by when they each arrived at his palace, it was pretty much a given that Ox would arrive first thanks to his great strength and the stride of his mighty steps. However, Rat, who was one of the smaller animals, asked Ox for a ride, to which Ox obliged, for Ox was strong and also kind. Rat enjoyed the ride, but Rat was a bit of a trickster, and just as Ox was about to enter the palace, Rat jumped off Ox and entered the palace first. This is why Rat is the first of the animals of the Chinese zodiac, and why Ox is second, ahead of the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and the pig. But this year is Ox’s year, and the element associated with Ox this year is metal.
And though the year is Ox’s, the new year celebration kicks off now and runs for sixteen days, through Lantern Festival, when the full moon returns and the celebration concludes.
We have two things to offer you through the Jaffe Center for Book Arts to mark the new year celebration. First, a virtual workshop with the amazing paper engineer Colette Fu, called “Year of the Metal Ox Pop-Up Cards.” It’s on Thursday, February 18, from 6 to 8 PM Eastern, via Zoom. In the workshop, Colette will teach you how to make three different pop-up cards for the new year; in addition to making the cards with you, she’ll explain the mechanics behind each so you can do some paper engineering of your own. Tuition for the workshop is self-determined, which means you decide how much your tuition is (JCBA suggests $65 for this workshop). And when I say Colette is an amazing paper engineer, I mean it: she created the world’s largest pop-up book in 2017; it measures 21 feet x 14 feet, and you can walk through it. I tried to bring it to the Jaffe Center for Book Arts last year, but we discovered there were no building entrances large enough for it.
The other new year event is the Jaffe Center’s virtual Real Mail Fridays Year of the Metal Ox Worldwide Letter Writing Social the very next day, on Friday, February 19, from 2 to 5 PM Eastern, also via Zoom, and it’s free. What to expect? We’ll be celebrating the Year of the Metal Ox through An Dun (music to calm the emotions) and Sheng Hua (music to invigorate the spirit). We play the music, people gather over Zoom, and it’s three hours of calm working time to do whatever you wish: write letters, knit, bind books, do homework, paint or draw. What you do is up to you. We just provide you with atmosphere and the company of like-minded folks, and once or twice an hour we break for a little chat.
We’ve been holding virtual Real Mail Fridays since December, and they are such heartwarming gatherings. I just glow brighter and brighter with the gifts of human kindness with each social we hold. And it’s just awfully nice to connect.
Please join us for one or both events. For the workshop, you need to register ahead of time. Click here for the details. For the Real Mail Fridays social, you just have to show up. Click here for the Zoom link. Wear red for good luck! And Happy New Year. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Click the pictures to make them larger: The top photo is of the new Year of the Ox postage stamp from the US Postal Service; the crowns are foil printed! The middle one is the slide for Colette Fu’s workshop, and the bottom one is the slide for the Real Mail Fridays social.