Do you have a vague idea what your Chinese zodiac sign is? (Born in 1984? You're a rat. Born in 1990? No wonder you're a free spirit like a horse). So you know your given animal, but that doesn’t mean you know how the whole thing shakes out, or how it works in comparison to the astrology you’re used to.
Well, here's your primer. The Chinese New Year — or Lunar New Year — began on February 5, officially ringing in the Year of the Pig. And if you’re curious about what the Chinese Year of the Pig means, then here’s everything you need to know, including what it says about your if your birth year falls within this particular sign.
Wait … What Is The Chinese New Year?
To put it simply the Chinese New Year — also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival — marks the beginning of the new year, according to the Lunar calendar. That means that while a new year on a Western calendar (which follows the Earth’s rotation around the sun) will always begin on January 1, a Chinese new year will begin according to the new moon.
Think of it like this — a Western calendar is a constant that approximates the astronomical cycles (full moons and occurrences of the like), while a Chinese calendar allows for wiggle room to accommodate the varied astronomical cycles.
“Since the months of the Chinese calendar are derived from the lunar cycle, which lasts 29.53 days on average, its months are either 29 or 30 days long,” according to Classroom. That kind of flexibility means that placing the Spring Festival on a Western calendar will vary from year to year, falling somewhere between January 21 and February 20. One thing, however, is for sure: When the Chinese New Year begins, so does a new Chinese Zodiac.
The festival then ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, which will be on February 19 this year.
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How Is The Chinese Zodiac Different From Western Astrology?
For starters, your Chinese zodiac sign is determined by the year in which you were born (as opposed to Western astrology where your birth date determines your zodiac sign). The animal associated with each Chinese zodiac sign occurs every 12 years, meaning we won’t see another Year of the Pig until 2031.
Like Western astrology, Chinese zodiac signs include natural elements that influence each sign. But where Western astrology only relies on four elements (earth, wind, fire and water), Chinese astrology is influenced by five — wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The elements in the Chinese zodiac change in order from wood to fire, then earth, metal, and water with each one influencing the subsequent element. In Chinese philosophy, that means that the elements “fuel” or “feed” one another, according to China Highlights. For instance, fire helps form earth through natural occurrences like volcanoes; water, on the other hand, helps to feed wood in the case of rain for trees and plants.
Each element lasts for two years at a time, according to Astrology Weekly, and gives your animal zodiac a unique twist — think of it as your animal zodiac being viewed through element-inspired glasses.
In the case of 2019, it’s the Year of the Pig, and the element is Earth, a combination that, Chinese New Year 2019 noted, means “these Pigs are social butterflies with friends from all walks of life.”
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How Do I Figure Out My Chinese Zodiac?
If you haven’t yet figured out your Chinese zodiac, then there are a number of resources that offer easy-to-use calculators where you plug in your birth date. China Highlights has one that not only reveals your animal zodiac, but provides a short horoscope for the year. If you’re not into that, then Your Chinese Astrology and Travel China Guide provide charts that divvy up birth years under their corresponding animal zodiacs.
So What Does It Mean If I’m The Year Of The Pig?
Years of the Pig include people born in 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007 and 2019.
If you’re super chill and laid-back, then your birth year just might fall under this sign. According to The Atlantic, having a birthday in the Year of the Pig also means you are sociable, kind and thoughtful. The website Chinese New Year noted that the pig is associated with wealth and, apparently, their cute, chubby faces and big ears also signal good fortune.
Looking for love? The website notes that Pigs are most compatible with Tigers, or those born in 1974, 1986 or 1998. But don’t be surprised if a Rabbit (1975, 1987 or 1999) or Goat (1979, 1991, 2003) looks your way — people born under this animal zodiac can also find themselves a partner in a Pig.
And if you’re a Pig who finds yourself butting heads with your partner, then you might be matched with a Snake (1977, 1989 or 2001) or Monkey (1980, 1992 or 2004), the two animal zodiacs that are the least compatible with pigs.
What Happens At The Spring Festival?
With traditions marked by special foods, family gatherings, street festivals and celebrations that last for 15 days, it’s easy to see how the Spring Festival is the most important holiday in China and to Chinese people across the globe.
And firecrackers and fireworks are pretty important to the celebration, too. Their prominence is tied to an ancient Chinese legend that says the loud noises help to ward off a monster called Nian who had been known for attacking Chinese villages, according to TED Ideas.
Nian is also the reason for the abundant use of the color red throughout the festival, which became associated with good luck, as well as banishing bad luck. In addition to the decor, red envelopes are used to distribute varying amounts of money to children, family members, friends and employees as a symbol of good fortune, according to The Seattle Times.
Red lanterns are also popular to symbolize prosperity (in life and business) and protection, and are traditionally hung up on the eve of Spring Festival. Chinese people also decorate with certain words, namely “fu” which means “happiness and good fortune,” according to Chinese New Year 2019.
How Can I Celebrate The Lunar New Year?
If you want to incorporate some of the tradition of the Chinese New Year in your life this week, then consider hosting a dinner with family and friends. After all, the festival celebrates togetherness enjoyed over food.
It sounds like it also wouldn’t hurt to incorporate a touch of red in your decor, whether it’s by way of a paper lantern or your favorite crimson candle. Of course, your friends and family probably won't complain about you slipping red envelopes into their palms.