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Around Chinese New Year, it’s common to hear the holiday associated with an animal symbol. For example, 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. Here’s why.
The Chinese Zodiac
Each new Chinese year is named for one of 12 animal symbols from the Chinese zodiac, which then rotate on a 12 year cycle. It’s believed that the animals were selected during the Han Dynasty, with their symbolic meanings based on the animals’ observable living habits.
The Chinese place great importance on the zodiac animal ruling the year of your birth. That simple stroke of luck, or fortuitous planning by your parents, can influence your character, relationships and the overall arc of your life. No pressure, at all.
Unfortunately, it’s considered particularly unlucky when your birth animal year returns every 12 years as you turn 12, 24, 36 and so on. When your year comes around, avoid the curse of Tai Sui, the God of Age, by wearing red clothing gifted to you by an older relative.
The Story of the Great Race
Long ago, there was no Chinese zodiac. So the story goes, the Jade Emperor wished to celebrate his birthday with a great race for all of his favorite animals. The first 12 animals to cross the finish line at the palace would become a symbol in the lunar calendar. On the appointed day, the animals gathered at the river and began swimming toward the palace. The clever Rat spotted the diligent Ox and jumped on his back — at the other bank, he quickly jumped off and raced across the finish line first, with the Ox lumbering close behind. The fearless Tiger swam quickly through the currents to finish third, while the nimble Rabbit hopped from log to log and finished fourth. The benevolent Dragon paused to water the farmers’ fields and finished fifth. The persistent Horse arrived seventh, after being passed by the slithering Snake for 6th place. The Ram, Monkey and Rooster steered a raft together and finished 8th, 9th and 10th. The playful Dog was distracted in the water and came in 11th, while the carefree Pig finished last in 12th place.
The Cat arrived a day late for the great race, having been tricked by the cunning Rat. That’s why there’s no Cat among the zodiac animals and why Cats and Rats remain enemies!
Chinese New Year Animals
Here are the 12 Chinese New Year animals from the Chinese zodiac, along with the ways the animals are thought to affect the characters of people born during these years.
|2020: Rat||Popular, charming and artistic.||1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008|
|2021: Ox||Dependable and calm with strong leadership.||1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009|
|2022: Tiger||Emotional, deep-thinking and courageous.||1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010|
|2023: Rabbit||Friendly, talkative and trustworthy.||1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011|
|2024: Dragon||Energetic, vibrant and faithful.||1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012|
|2025: Snake||Intuitive, cultured and good with money.||1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013|
|2026: Horse||Independent, intelligent and hard working.||1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014|
|2015: Sheep||Artistic, inquisitive and wise.||1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003|
|2016: Monkey||Funny, good-humored problem solvers.||1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004|
|2017: Rooster||Shrewd, decisive and extravagant.||1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005|
|2018: Dog||Honest, faithful and loyal.||1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006|
|2019: Pig||Sincere, tolerant and honest.||1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007|
HT: Photo by Loktin Feng Shui.