February 9, 2021
While New Year’s in Western cultures are important holidays, the Chinese New Year differs quite a bit. Besides the celebrations themselves, the first big difference is that the Chinese New Year is based on their lunar-solar calendar, meaning the date itself fluctuates on a Gregorian calendar. Instead of the Gregorian New Year being always on January 1st, the Chinese New Year can be anywhere from January 21st to February 20th.
Along with these timing differences, the festivities for the Chinese counterpart aren’t limited to that evening and day; instead, the celebrations traditionally last 15 days! Although these celebrations include many different things, they’re overall considered to be a time for reuniting with family and friends through traditional foods to celebrate health, prosperity, and happiness.
And with the New Year comes a new animal that represents those who will be born under its time. Traditionally, these were thought to bring certain qualities to people born during their year. So what are they, and what do they mean?
The Chinese zodiac and the significance of your birth-year animal
Each year of the Chinese calendar is associated with one of 12 different animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram (or sheep, depending on the translation), monkey, rooster, dog, or boar. Traditionally it’s said that those born in the year of a certain animal will share certain qualities associated with it.
To simplify the banner of what birth dates are associated with which zodiac in Western culture, people often equate one year in the Gregorian calendar to one zodiac animal — for example, for simplicity’s sake some will say 1994 is the year of the dog. But that’s not completely accurate. Because the Chinese calendar and turnover of years doesn’t align one to one with the Gregorian calendar, for example, the first month or so of 1994 (depending on when the Chinese new year began then) would actually still be part of the year of the rooster, while the year of the dog would carry over into the first bit of 1995, too.
With that in mind, when we mention a year below that’s associated with a zodiac animal, that means that the majority of that year and the first bit of the next year falls under that sign, but that the first bit of that Gregorian year belonged to the previous sign.
Take this year: babies born after February 12th this year will be of the year of the ox, although babies born during January or the first week-ish of February 2021 will be under the year of the rat. Those under the rat zodiac are thought to work both smart and hard, are adaptable and sociable and pleasant to be around, while people from the year of the ox are considered patient but persistent and methodical, trustworthy, strong in their beliefs but without showboating them.
After the rat and ox is the tiger, which includes those born in 1986, ‘98, 2010, and 2022. These people are brave, confident, and charming, although they can sometimes be a bit hard-to-predict. Then those who were born in ‘87, ‘99, or 2011 are from the year of the rabbit. They’re thought to be compassionate and kind-hearted. This makes them thoughtful, easy-going, and generally pleasant.
Babies from the years ‘88 or 2000 (although, ironically, not those born at the turn of the millennium itself) are dragons. Dragons are leaders; they’re powerful, intelligent, and charismatic, plus confident in all these abilities. Snakes are born the year after dragons. Like people from the year of the dragon, people born under the snake are also intelligent, but they might not command the room like their fellow reptilian zodiac — nor do they need to. Snakes are instead witty and sophisticated and are articulate without talking your ear off. Rather, their eloquence means people born during the year of the snake are simultaneously communicative and rather quiet.
The horse comes next. These people are enthusiastic, positive, and have a warm heart that attracts many people to them. This energy means they’re adventurous and enjoy trying new experiences. After horses are rams or sheep, although they can be translated both ways. Rams are strong and just, not judgmental, and empathetic. Because of the amount of care they show for others and the fact that they’re thought of as easy-going and low-key, rams are generally well-liked by others.
Then there’s the monkey. Like their connotations in many cultures, people born under the monkey are witty and curious, which combined with their street-smart intelligence makes them innovative and adaptable. Monkeys are thought to be rather independent, but not at the expense of being cheerful and good-natured in others’ company. Meanwhile the rooster is the next year (the youngest roosters were born in 2017, if you’re still counting). Like the monkey, they’re self-reliant and bright. Building on those qualities, they’re also decisive and clear communicators — and people from the year of the rooster are also thought to be quite attractive.
The last two signs from the Chinese zodiac are the dog and the boar. The most recent cycles of the dog were in ‘82, ‘94, 2006, and 2018, while the boar were born in the years right after. Just like man’s best friend in real life, people symbolized by the dog are loyal, helpful, and amiable. They’re friendly and decisive, which gives them a strong sense of justice, although sometimes they’re thought to not be the best at communicating these feelings. Boars, meanwhile, work hard even when — or especially when — no one’s watching. Along with their work ethic, they’re compassionate and generous to lend a helping hand, plus their modesty doesn’t get in the way of them enjoying life’s pleasures. With their respective qualities, people from the years of both the dog and boar are excellent friends to have.
Each of these 12 signs is associated with both admirable qualities and their own vices. In that way, they capture humans pretty well. And for those babies born during the next 12 or so months, maybe they’ll be just a bit extra strong, steadfast, and trustworthy like their ox.