zodiac seasons

Your Guide to Capricorn Season

Illustration: Sunny Wu

The winter equinox marks the beginning of Capricorn season — the last of the calendar year. For many, it’s a season of warmth and family and cherished traditions. It’s also a time of reflection, for taking stock of all that you have accomplished this past year, the milestones you reached and the ones you fell short of, as well as for setting goals and making plans for the year ahead. After the freewheeling, anything-goes spirit of Sagittarius season, Capricorn demands that we plant our feet firmly on the ground (it is an earth sign, after all) and get serious.

The sun is usually in Capricorn from December 21 to January 20, and during this time, the general atmosphere itself seems to be suffused with the sign’s discipline, resourcefulness, and practical ambition. Being an earth sign, Capricorn is practical, reliable, and in tune with the physical world. It’s ruled by Saturn, planet of structure, limits, and authority. This adds up to a zodiac season ideal for focusing on concrete, achievable goals. No more aimless wandering, no more abstract dreaming. It’s time to get real and make plans.

Depending on what’s going on in your own astrological chart, this might sound less than thrilling. Even if you are a Capricorn, you might be bristling a bit — it’s Capricorns, more than anyone else, who most often tell me they don’t really recognize themselves in descriptions of their sign. And honestly, it’s hard to blame them. Earth signs in general aren’t written about in ways that inspire excitement; the focus on groundedness and reliability can leave little room for creativity or pleasure.

Capricorn, in particular, even more than the other earth signs, is often presented as a stick in the mud. They’re the earnest, striving middle manager, a frustrating older relative who can’t understand why you won’t just apply yourself and find a nice, well-paying (read: dull) job. Like most astrological stereotypes, it’s not totally off base. Capricorns tend to expect a lot of themselves and can be unreasonably hard on themselves and others when they fall short. Whatever your sun sign, your inner boss might be particularly hard to please during Capricorn season, so be wary of setting yourself up to fail with overambitious New Year’s resolutions.

Focusing too much on work and achievement, though, limits our understanding of what Capricorn is actually all about. So for now, put suits and briefcases out of your mind. Resist reducing Capricorn to this one sliver of its whole self. Even better, get excited for Capricorn season. It doesn’t have to be stodgy or buttoned-up or conventional at all. Capricorn is motivated by a desire for tangible, real-world success, but crucially, this is not always synonymous with a hunger for money or success in the business world.

Capricorn energy is about dedication, accomplishment, and mastery, but that doesn’t necessarily have to do with toiling in an office building. There’s space for fun, too; Capricorn has a sensual side, lustful and hungry for pleasure or power or sweetness — an energy that’s deeply attuned to the imagination and the body’s desires. Crucially, it’s Capricorn’s discipline and tenacity that can help the wildest, most beautiful ideas take shape and become real. This is a gift not to be underestimated.

Capricorn energy is Dolly Parton telling Vanity Fair that the thing she dislikes most is laziness, and the trait she most deplores in others is “dishonesty and being late for appointments.” But Capricorn energy is also Parton’s glitz and big hair and total unabashed honesty — it’s the notion that if you really put in the work, you can do what you want, because you’ve earned it. Capricorn energy is Shonda Rhimes building a successful TV empire, but it’s also Rhimes writing some truly fun, truly bananas plotlines on Scandal. It’s Michelle Obama making her way through hostile environments in the Ivy League and the political world with her feet on the ground and her ambition intact. It’s also Joanna Newsom grinding her way through years of harp (!) practice, writing songs, and studying polyrhythms, focused on doing the work to make exactly the sort of music she wants, exactly the way she wants to.

The best way to celebrate Capricorn season is to get down to business and make yourself useful, as long as you can remember that usefulness doesn’t have to be bound up in ideas of hustle and productivity and making money. Don’t stop being imaginative and weird; this is a chance to do the work to make your wild dreams real.

Your Guide to Capricorn Season