Happy Chinese New Year of the Wood Goat/Sheep!

The Skinny:  Today - Thursday, February 19, 2015 is the First Day of the New Chinese Year. The Goat (or Sheep) is one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac (Shēngxiào, or 生肖), which is based on a 12-year cycle. This year, the Goat takes on the Wood element, making it more amicable, gentle and compassionate than it already is when it takes on other elements. The Year is also known as the Year of the Sheep, or even Ram, because in Chinese the word 羊 (yáng) is a generic term, and can refer to a sheep (绵羊), goat (山羊), ram/buck (公羊 male sheep or goat), 羚羊 (antelope), etc.

"Happy (Chinese) New Year!" is pronounced “Gong Xi Fa Cai” in Mandarin and “Gong Hey Fat Choy” in Cantonese, although both are written the same way:

(恭禧發財)

(Click 'Here' to learn how to write out these Chinese characters.)

The Fat:  Everyone will experience less feistiness and more calmness during this year. Even arguments between spouses will be calmer (although more frequent) and produce mores resolutions. Let's learn a little bit about the Chinese Calendar and how it works:

Chinese New Year is also one of the biggest holidays on earth.  The world’s largest annual human migration is now well underway as 2.8 billion trips are made across China in what is known as chun yun, when students, migrant workers and office employees living away from home will make the journey back to celebrate with their families.

Although This is one of the oldest celebrations in human history - about 4652 years, so far - The Chinese calendar doesn't count years in an ongoing sequence, like the Gregorian calendar we use. Instead there is a 60-year cycle that repeats using twelve (12) animals in the zodiac and five (5) elements. That means that, although we'll have another Goat Year in 12 years, it will be a different element: Fire. In 12 more years it will be Earth, then Metal, then Water. This year of the Wood Goat won't repeat for another 60 years.

Each of the 12 years in the Chinese zodiac cycle is represented by an animal associated with five elemental signs. The animals are:

Zi (rat)
Chou (ox)
Yin (tiger)
Mao (rabbit)
Chen (dragon)
Si (snake)
Wu (horse)
Wei (sheep)
Shen (monkey)
You (rooster)
Xu (dog)
Hai (boar/pig)

It is believed that some animal-zodiac relationships are more compatible than others (like the western astrological zodiac based on months). Unlike the western zodiac, the Chinese zodiac animals are not associated with star constellations.

There are also 5 elements in the zodiac associated with the animals and their personalities:

Wood
Earth
Fire
Water
Metal

Since 2015 is the Year of the Wood Goat/Ram/Sheep, it is believed that those born in this sign are going to have a good year, with plenty of luck and opportunities ahead.

The Year of the Wood Goat/Ram/Sheep (Wei) starts today and ends on February 7, 2016, in the Gregorian calendar. It comes after the Year of the Horse and before the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese calendar. During Spring Festival, people put up symbols of the sheep, as well as the "happiness" sign, in their homes. People born in the Year of the Goat/Sheep are thought to be loyal, good-natured and kind. They are believed to be introverts who can easily be overtaken by emotion.

Careers and Compatibility
According to superstition, those born this Year tend to be adaptable and highly motivated and committed to their work. Their compatibility is matched with the Pig and the Dragon, but least matched with the Rooster and the Tiger.

Famous people born in a Year of the Sheep include:

Michelangelo (architect, sculptor, painter)
Mark Twain (author)
Thomas Edison (inventor)
Julia Roberts (actor)

What year were you born in?
This table shows which animal sign you are, based on the year you were born in.

Animal    Year (Gregorian calendar)    Personality characteristics
Rat    
Feb 10, 1948 – Jan 28, 1949
Jan 28, 1960 – Feb 14, 1961
Feb 15, 1972 – Feb 2, 1973
Feb 2, 1984 – Feb 19, 1985
Feb 19, 1996 – Feb 6, 1997
Feb 7, 2008 – Jan 25, 2009
Jan 25, 2020 – Feb 11, 2021
Imaginative, generous, successful, popular, curious

Ox    
Jan 29, 1949 – Feb 16, 1950
Feb 15, 1961 – Feb 4, 1962
Feb 3, 1973 – Jan 22, 1974
Feb 20, 1985 – Feb 8, 1986
Feb 7, 1997 – Jan 27, 1998
Jan 26, 2009 – Feb 13, 2010
Feb 12, 2021 – Jan 31, 2022
Confident, honest, patient, conservative, strong

Tiger    
Feb 17, 1950 – Feb 5, 1951
Feb 5, 1962 – Jan 24, 1963
Jan 23, 1974 – Feb 10, 1975
Feb 9, 1986 – Jan 28, 1987
Jan 28, 1998 – Feb 15, 1999
Feb 14, 2010 – Feb 2, 2011
Feb 1, 2022 – Jan 21, 2023
Sensitive, tolerant, brave, active, resilient

Rabbit    
Feb 6, 1951 – Jan 26, 1952
Jan 25, 1963 – Feb 12, 1964
Feb 11, 1975 – Jan 30, 1976
Jan 29, 1987 – Feb 16, 1988
Feb 16, 1999 – Feb 4, 2000
Feb 3, 2011 – Jan 22, 2012
Jan 22, 2023 – Feb 9, 2024
Affectionate, kind, gentle, compassionate, merciful

Dragon    
Jan 27, 1952 – Feb 13, 1953
Feb 13, 1964 – Feb 1, 1965
Jan 31, 1976 – Feb 17, 1977
Feb 17, 1988 – Feb 5, 1989
Feb 5, 2000 – Jan 23, 2001
Jan 23, 2012 – Feb 9, 2013
Feb 10, 2024 – Jan 28, 2025
Enthusiastic, intelligent, lively, energetic, innovative

Snake    
Feb 14, 1953 – Feb 2, 1954
Feb 2, 1965 – Jan 20, 1966
Feb 18, 1977 – Feb 6, 1978
Feb 6, 1989 – Jan 26, 1990
Jan 24, 2001 – Feb 11, 2002
Feb 10, 2013 – Jan 30, 2014
Jan 29, 2025 – Feb 16, 2026
Charming, intuitive, romantic, highly perceptive, polite

Horse    
Feb 3, 1954 – Jan 23, 1955
Jan 21, 1966 – Feb 8, 1967
Feb 7, 1978 – Jan 27, 1979
Jan 27, 1990 – Feb 14, 1991
Feb 12, 2002 – Jan 31, 2003
Jan 31, 2014 – Feb 18, 2015
Feb 17, 2026 – Feb 5, 2027
Diligent, friendly, sophisticated, talented, clever

Sheep/ Goat    
Jan 24, 1955 – Feb 11, 1956
Feb 9, 1967 – Jan 29, 1968
Jan 28, 1979 – Feb 15, 1980
Feb 15, 1991 – Feb 3, 1992
Feb 1, 2003 – Jan 21, 2004
Feb 19, 2015 – Feb 7, 2016
Feb 6, 2027 – Jan 25, 2028
Artistic, calm, reserved, happy, kind

Monkey    
Feb 12, 1956 – Jan 30, 1957
Jan 30, 1968 – Feb 16, 1969
Feb 16, 1980 – Feb 4, 1981
Feb 4, 1992 – Jan 22, 1993
Jan 22, 2004 – Feb 8, 2005
Feb 8, 2016 – Jan 27, 2017
Jan 26, 2028 – Feb 12, 2029
Witty, lively, flexible, humorous, curious

Rooster    
Jan 31, 1957 – Feb 17, 1958
Feb 17, 1969 – Feb 5, 1970
Feb 5, 1981 – Jan 24, 1982
Jan 23, 1993 – Feb 9, 1994
Feb 9, 2005 – Jan 28, 2006
Jan 28, 2017 – Feb 15, 2018
Feb 13, 2029 – Feb 2, 2030
Shrewd, honest, communicative, motivated, punctual

Dog    
Feb 18, 1958 – Feb 8, 1959
Feb 6, 1970 – Jan 26, 1971
Jan 25, 1982 - Feb 12, 1983
Feb 10 1994 – Jan 30, 1995
Jan 29, 2006 – Feb 17, 2007
Feb 16, 2018 – Feb 4, 2019
Feb 3, 2030 – Jan 22, 2031
Loyal, honest, responsible, courageous, warm-hearted

Pig    
Feb 8,1959 – Jan 27, 1960
Jan 27, 1971 - Feb 14, 1972
Feb 13, 1983 - Feb 1, 1984
Jan 31, 1995 - Feb 18, 1996
Feb 18, 2007 - Feb 6, 2008
Feb 5, 2019 – Jan 24, 2020
Jan 23, 2031 – Feb 10, 2032
Sincere, tolerant, hard-working, honest, optimistic

A little known fact in the West:  Leap years occur every 3 years in the Chinese calendar. The Chinese calendar normally features 12 months but occasionally has a leap year consisting of 13 months. This year is a Chinese leap year: 2015, the Year of the Goat/Ram/Sheep.