With the Omicron variant casting a shadow over New Year’s and all of us feeling very “Spring 2020”, it is easy to forget that we have actually started a new calendar year.  But with Chinese New Year coming so close on the heels of the solar new year, we have another chance to chart new beginnings. This year, Chinese New Year falls on February 1st, 2022 and signals the start of the Year of the Tiger.

Chinese New Year, also referred to as the Spring Festival, celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar.  The first day of Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that typically appears between January 21st and February 20th (which is why Chinese New Year is also called Lunar New Year) and celebrations continue over the next 15 days.  It’s a major holiday in mainland China and just one of several Lunar New Years across Asia, including the Seollal in South Korea, the Losar of Tibet and Imlek in Indonesia.  It is also celebrated worldwide in Asian diaspora—more than 20% of the world’s population, or almost 2 billion people, celebrate Lunar New Year.

Similar to the solar zodiac, the Chinese zodiac has twelve animals.  Each animal represents an entire year in a repeating 12-year cycle.  The Chinese zodiac animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.  If you’re curious to know what your Chinese zodiac sign is, you can look it up here.  2021 is the Year of the Ox and 2022 will usher in the Year of the Tiger.

As described by astrologers over the centuries, those born in the Year of the Tiger are courageous and self-confident, with a keen sense of justice and a commitment to helping others for the greater good.  Tigers will not stand down when they see injustice occurring, whether toward themselves or toward others.  We could certainly use more Tigers!

According to the Pew Research Center, here in the United States, Asians make up about 7% of the nation’s overall population.  The Asian population rose to 11.9 million by 2000, nearly doubled to 22.4 million by 2019, and is projected to surpass 46 million by 2060.  Single-race, non-Hispanic Asians make up a large majority of all Asians in the country and is the nation’s fastest-growing racial or ethnic group, outpacing the growth among Hispanics and Blacks. Yet, Asian Americans are severely underrepresented—Asians and Pacific Islanders make up only 0.9% of elected officials.

The rising violence against Asian Americans, fueled by the convergence of hateful, scapegoating rhetoric and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly two years ago, also serves as a painful reminder that Asians in America are still treated like foreigners and the perpetual “other”.  The close of 2021 saw a 361% increase in anti-Asian crime in New York City alone, compared to 2020.

This Year of the Tiger, let’s chart a new course!  Let’s do more than celebrate Chinese New Year with food and firecrackers.  Let’s learn more about the history, the culture, the struggles and the goals of our people. Let’s stand up and speak out for fellow Asians in the face of injustices.  Let’s support and amplify Asian voices.  In doing so, we can all tap into our inner Tigers. After all, we can all use more courage and compassion in the new year.