Chinese New Year: learn about this annual celebration and find your Chinese zodiac sign

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is the longest, most celebrated event in Chinese communities around the world. Each year, the Chinese New Year celebration falls on the date of the first new moon on the Chinese lunar calendar, which can be in late January or early to mid-February. Fireworks displays on the eve of the new year often begin the 15-day Chinese New Year festivities. The Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year celebrations on the fifteenth day.

Legends abound about the origins of the ancient Chinese New Year holiday. One well-known story says the man-eating dragon Nian (also the word for “year”) terrorized the country until a wise man convinced the dragon to eat other beasts. The wise man then advised the people to ward off the monster by making loud noises and hanging red decorations on windows and doors. The dragon was thought to be scared of the color red.

Today, the color red symbolizes the celebration, and gold appears as a tribute to the brilliance of Chinese culture. Peach blossoms and the narcissus and chrysanthemum all have symbolic value for a new year of prosperity, good health and happiness. The Chinese tradition of giving money packets, or laisee packets, is also thought to bring luck to both the giver and receiver.

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 Chinese zodiac: What's your sign?

The 12-year cycle in the Chinese calendar recognizes each of a dozen animals in the Chinese zodiac. People are thought to share some characteristics and traits of the animals that are associated with their birth years. Look below to learn more about your Chinese zodiac sign—and discover the animal in you!

 Rat: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

Determined and ambitious, people born in the year of the rat are hungry for success and relentless in achieving their goals. Their intelligence means they have the ability to go far, but they can be hotheaded when faced with difficulties, which can lead to conflict. Their charm and confidence mean they have few problems attracting the opposite sex. Longer-term relationships can be more challenging, however, because of their unwillingness to compromise. They do not like to share. Source: gohongkong.about.com

 Cow (Ox): 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

People with these birth years are patient, reliable and loyal. They are happiest when their lives and relationships are stable. They tend to form strong and long-lasting friendships and often have a small but solid circle of friends. While usually relaxed, these people can be apprehensive of change, and this fear can make them sensitive to criticism and unwilling to accept other people’s opinions. Source: gohongkong.about.com

 Tiger: 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022

Passionate about life, people born in these years tend to act before they think and throw all their energies into every situation. They are supremely confident and breed confidence in those around them, and they tend to be leaders and great orators. But their hot and cold emotions mean they are easily bored and change their mind and opinions frequently. They warm to people quickly and usually have many friends, but they can often be too easily influenced. Source: gohongkong.about.com

 Rabbit (Hare): 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023

The rabbit is one of the noblest signs. People with these birth years are considered principled and honorable and often gain the admiration of those around them. They care deeply about family and friends, and their kindness and sympathy for others means they have long and strong relationships. With their honesty and talent for dealing with people, they can often rise to positions of influence. Their good intentions can make them easy targets for people who take advantage of their charity and sympathy, and their gullibility can lead them into trouble. Source: gohongkong.about.com

 Dragon: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024

The dragon is one of the strongest signs in the Chinese zodiac. People born in these years have tireless spirits, which often bring them success. Because of their backbone and resolve, people often turn to people of the dragon zodiac in times of crisis, and they can be relied upon to help out others. Their bravery means there are few situations they cannot overcome. A fiery temperament drives these people and can make them impulsive and impetuous. They dislike routines and are regularly searching for new challenges and opportunities. Source: gohongkong.about.com

 Snake: 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025

Naturally intelligent, people born in the year of the snake have a thirst for knowledge and education, giving them a wisdom that makes them prudent and rational when it comes to both money and relationships. They rarely make hasty decisions, preferring to be patient and consider the pros and cons before choosing a course. Because of their deliberate approach to life, these people cope well with stress. However, they can seem emotionally detached and can struggle to express themselves. Source: gohongkong.about.com

 Horse: 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026

Full of wit and personality, people born in the year of the horse revel in being the center of attention, and their outgoing and sociable behavior means they usually have many friends. They usually have little difficulty in attracting the opposite sex. But they can be quick to fall in love and often have intense, brief relationships that end in heartbreak. Regardless of their relationship status, people born in the year of the horse like to be independent, and their can-do attitude and self-confidence can often drive them to success. Source: gohongkong.about.com

 Sheep (Goat): 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027

People with these birth years are thoughtful and kind to those around them, value their family and friends and often put other people first. Gentle in their personality, people with the sheep zodiac tend to have an affinity for culture and are often creatively gifted. Because of their sensitivity and concern, they are deep thinkers as well as worriers, making them easily stressed and often tense. Source: gohongkong.about.com

 Monkey: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028

Traits of people born in these years include confidence, charisma and a dash of cuteness, often making them popular with friends and potential partners. People of the monkey zodiac are imaginative, adventurous and restless, which can make them seem rebellious and unwilling to accept authority. Their inquisitive natures and creativity often make them gifted at overcoming challenges and striving under stress. Their natural talents may sometimes be lost to laziness, and they can seem condescending and egotistical. Source: gohongkong.about.com

 Rooster: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029

With high expectations and high standards, people with the rooster zodiac demand the best for themselves and are tenacious in doing whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Although their ideals may seem impossibly ambitious, their approach to life is practical, disciplined and hardworking. They are sharp and capable and conquer the obstacles that face them resolutely. These people take failure very personally and can be highly critical of themselves and others, which can make them appear insensitive. Source: gohongkong.about.com

 Dog: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030

People of the dog zodiac have naturally happy dispositions and are eternal optimists, always seeing the best in themselves and others. Their enthusiasm is infectious and can inspire others to look to them for leadership. Although they value loyalty and are trusting of others, they are easily jealous and are unforgiving after disagreements and arguments. An innate stubbornness also means they will rarely admit when they are wrong. Source: gohongkong.about.com

 Pig: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

People born in these years are down-to-earth and instantly likable. Others rely on them for their honesty and sense of fairness. Their friendliness and compassion make them excellent at dealing with people, and they are excellent judges of character. Despite their belief in other people, they can often underestimate themselves and feel they lack the skills or talent to achieve what they want most in life. Source: gohongkong.about.com