While most have a basic familiarity with the animals of the Lunar New Year, there are a number of nuances and stories associated with the zodiac that many don't know. Let's jump right in!
The Basic of the Chinese Zodiac
Feel free to skip past this if you're already familiar with the animals associated with the Lunar New Year, but it's always good to start with a strong foundation to make sure we're all on the same page.
There are 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac. Unlike the animals of the western zodiac, animals are associated with year of birth, rather than month of birth. These are the 12 animals:
Similar to the western zodiac, each animal is said to have core character qualities common to the individuals born during that year. Providing character descriptions for each animal would make this article far too long; just search "Chinese zodiac" or "lunar new year zodiac" and your search engine will give you a multitude of sites where you can input your birthdate and learn about your associated zodiac animal.
Alright basic complete - on to the finer details.
Birthdate is Key - Especially for January & February Birthdays
I find people often mistakenly associated Chinese zodiac animals with year of birth. While that's correct for 10 out of the 12 months of the year, it's critical to remember that the Lunar New Year is NOT January 1. The Lunar New Year is based on moon cycles and fluctuates in date from year to year. That being said, individuals born in January or early February may not be associated with the animal that categorizes the remainder of the year. Instead they're associated with the animal of the previous year.
Personal anecdote - being born in 1985, for years I thought I was year of the Ox. However, the description never seemed to match:
"Oxen are honest and earnest. They are low key and never look for praise or to be the center of attention. This often hides their talent, but they’ll gain recognition through their hard work."
Ha. For those who know me, we can find a number of different issues with this description. Honest and earnest, yes, but "low key," "never look for praise," "never want to be the center of attention," umm have you met me before?
Because of this, I never gave the Chinese zodiac too much credence. While a few of the traits and descriptions seemed to describe parts of me, it never seemed to describe the essence of all of me.
Then I realized I was born in mid-January and that I was actually the year of the rat. Check out this description:
The Rat is the first Sign of the Chinese Zodiac and is born under the sign of charm. He is intelligent, popular, and loves attending parties and large social gatherings. Rats are very thrifty. This is purely because he likes to keep his money within his family.
There we go. Center of attention, check. Stingy, check. Also, check this out:
"The Rat is the first of all zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived at the finish line, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox, becoming first."
...yeah that also sounds like something I would do.
There Is a Specific Order to the Animals - Based on a Folktale
Rather than writing out the story - check out this 4-minute animated video. Tells you about the race and gives you some insights into the core personality traits of each of the animals
Animals Have Compatibility With Other Animals
Here's a fun activity to do with your partner, look up your respective zodiac animals and find a site that describe your compatibility with each other. Similar to western astrology, certain animals are said to be more compatible than others. Compatibility occurs in four year increments with the highest compatibility between animals 4 lunar years apart. See the image below:
Now that being said, the equation of course doesn't take into account the human ability to compromise, adapt and grow in the name of love; use the compatibility as a starting point to better understand and appreciate your partner; or use it as the butt end of a joke to have a good laugh together.
Your Year is NOT a Good Luck Year
With all of the paraphernalia and hoopla around celebrating the year of [insert animal year] it's easy to think, "this is my year!" In reality, the year of your zodiac is your "watch out" year. With regards to career, love, family, and friendships, the idea is to tread lightly and be careful.
There are Elements Associated with 12 Year Cycles
In addition to the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, there are also five elements, each element associated with a 12-year cycle. Those elements are:
Similar to the 12 zodiac animals, each of these elements provide additional primary characteristics common to these individuals.