The Lunar New Year Brings the Year of the Tiger and a Rush of High-Octane Energy

Still reeling from the havoc that was the initial jolt of the pandemic in 2020, many of us spent 2021 simply catching our breath during the Year of the Ox (a course of action supported by its calm nature). But now, as we welcome the Lunar New Year on February 1, we’re poised for a big energetic shift. Behold: the Year of the Tiger, the third animal of the Chinese zodiac, and a symbol of courage and ambition, says doctor of East Asian medicine Anna Hsieh Gold, LAc, DACM. “While the Year of the Ox was about diligence and persistence, the Year of the Tiger is about dynamism, adventure, and taking risks,” she says.

Experts In This Article

If you’re one of the many feeling the pandemic slump, consider this great news. In most cases, tiger energy is good energy: “During the New Year period, many Chinese children wear tiger hats to ward away evils and to usher in good luck,” says Danielle Chang, founder of event company Luckyrice and co-founder of modern Chinese remedies brand The Hao Life.

But in general, the powerful tiger does reflect extremes. “Though emperors and kings are often compared to tigers in Chinese culture for their strength and lordliness, the tiger can also be aggressive and even cruel,” Chang says. In other words, we can expect the intense tiger energy from this Lunar New Year to fluctuate depending on the circumstances.

How the Lunar New Year and Year of the Tiger will shape the feel of 2022

Not only does the tiger bring forth its own share of dynamism, but also, it reflects the start of a new astrological season. “The 2021 ox year was the last year in a 12-year cycle representing the winter season,” says Dr. Gold. “And the tiger is the first animal of the astrological spring season, which is budding throughout 2022.”

“If you’ve been nourishing an intention, the seeds that you’ve planted are about to spring into action.” —Anna Hsieh Gold, LAc, DACM

Cue good things ahead for the folks who spent the long, slow days of the past couple years planning, persevering, or just generally practicing patience. “If you’ve been nourishing an intention, the seeds that you’ve planted are about to spring into action,” says Dr. Gold.

Just prepare for that process to be a bit topsy-turvy at times. This Lunar New Year also reflects the start of a water year (each year in the Chinese calendar is tied to an element in addition to an animal)—and water is associated with emotions and malleability. “Water is the strongest of the five elements because it is able to maneuver its way around any obstacle in its path while still maintaining its original essence,” says Benjamin Schwartz, LAc, an acupuncturist at WTHN. But essentially, you have to be down to ride the wave in order to benefit from water’s fluidity.

Some of that turbulence could also be amplified by the pairing of the water element with the tiger. “Since the tiger is a ‘yang’ animal, meaning it’s associated with movement and action, and water reflects ‘yin,’ the Year of the Water Tiger will be about fits and starts, intention and action, but also sudden stops and changes,” says Dr. Gold.

How to actively embrace this year’s big Water Tiger energy

In alignment with the tiger’s high-octane vibe, all the experts suggest taking the leap, making the change, or starting the big new thing. This is the year to be fearless—according to Chang, it’s a “go big or go bust” type of year—but also to be ready and agile enough to withstand the curve balls inherent in any adventure.

To be sure, that doesn’t mean acting without thinking so much as having a game plan and then taking a (calculated) risk. In order to do that successfully, Dr. Gold suggests leaning on the people around you. “Water tiger energy is about community and building networks,” she says. “So, if you’ve been thinking about pivoting in life, this is the year to do it, and the way to create a new path forward is through relationships and connecting with people.”

Although the water element will likely bubble lots of emotions to the surface, it’s important not to suppress them, so much as to feel them fully, says Schwartz: “Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches us that emotions are movements of qi [which means "life force"], and allowing a free flow of qi through the processing of our emotions is essential for optimal health and well-being.”

To that end, it’s a good time to prioritize nourishing the mind and body, particularly as we all prepare for the rapid transformation of the Lunar New Year ahead. “The water element is related to the kidney, and it’s best to replenish the kidney qi with foods or supplements containing ingredients like functional mushrooms, ginger, ginseng, and sesame seeds,” says Chang. Beyond that, set aside time for whatever helps you operate at your functional best this year, be it meditating, talking with friends, exercising, or something else entirely. With water tiger energy soon to be in our midst, we’ll all be roaring full speed ahead in no time.

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