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The Chinese New Year has an animal for everyone
An English rose in Georgia
Lesley Francis - SBF

The Chinese are having trouble separating their sheep from their goats, at least that’s the way it looks to many Americans and Europeans trying to make sense of the Chinese calendar.
Even though the Chinese have adopted the Gregorian calendar used by the rest of the world, their traditional calendar is used for celebrations, festivals and horoscopes. It is based on movements of the moon, and the Chinese New Year always falls somewhere between Jan. 21-Feb. 20.
The Chinese New Year began Feb. 19 and today is the 15th day of the New Year holiday, historically called Spring Festival, and marks the traditional end of a couple of weeks of vacations and celebrations. Today, many Chinese will send glowing lanterns into the sky or out onto the sea, rivers or lakes to mark this 15th day with their Lantern Festival.
My husband’s business causes him to spend a great deal of time working with and in the Far East, so our family has become more aware over all things Chinese in recent months, including the Chinese zodiac that associates different years with different animals. While the Chinese seem pretty relaxed about it, there is some confusion over the choice of animal for this year in the English speaking world. There has been much debate about whether this should be the year of the traditional goat, manly ram or cute sheep.
This confusion has arisen from the fact that the Chinese character for this new zodiac year is written as a figure that looks like a horned animal and which can be interpreted in different ways. The Chinese animal zodiac, or shengxiao (which means “born resembling”), is a repeating cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal and its reputed attributes. Traditionally, these zodiac animals were used to mark the passing of the years. Every Chinese child knows their order as well as we know the order of the months of our calendar.
According to, the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, in order are: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. So those born last year “belong to the year of the horse;” if this year, you “belong to the year of the goat.”
The 12 zodiac animals were chosen, after many revisions, by ancient Chinese leaders. They come in six contrasting pairs that must be balanced and harmonized, like yin and yang.
People born in a certain animal year are believed to have attributes of that animal, which could either help or hinder the way one person pairs up with another. Just like our own horoscope, this system provides relationship advice. The Chinese traditionally believe that people born in the year of the goat are calm, gentle, kind, shy, private and team players. Good career choices for goats are paediatrician, teacher, interior designer, florist, hair stylist, musician and illustrator.
Just for fun, I looked up which Chinese zodiac sign is mine. I belong to the year of the horse and therefore am classified as a “fire horse,” which means that I am supposed to be smart, charismatic, lively, overflowing with enthusiasm, but stubborn and suited to being, among other professions, a journalist and publicist (really!).
It is believed to be bad luck for you when your zodiac year comes round. Because the Chinese zodiac recurs every 12 years, your animal year will come around when you are 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, etc. According Chinese tradition, the best way to avoid bad luck during this year is by wearing something red given by an older relative, such as socks, a neck cord, underwear, a waistband, a bracelet or an anklet.
While New Year resolutions are a modern Western tradition, I was drawn to this quote from (of course) Confucius: “To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness.”
God bless America, and enjoy your year of the goat!

Francis grew up in London, England, and made Georgia her home in 2009. Email her at or by going to

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