January 1 has passed, but it’s time to celebrate another fresh start: Lunar New Year. Learn about favorite Chinese New Year traditions, plus which animal is associated with your birth year.

By Karla Walsh
January 24, 2020

The Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in many Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, and Korea. Also known as the Spring Festival in China, it's a celebration of family and the future. On January 25, 2020, we ring in the year of the rat, a sign associated with prosperity and optimism, but there are also spirit animals assigned to every birth year. Learn more about your Chinese zodiac sign (rat or otherwise) and what it can say about your personality.

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What is Lunar New Year?

The exact date of the Lunar New Year varies each year (between January 21 and February 20), as it’s scheduled to align with the first full moon of the lunar calendar. It has been celebrated for thousands of years, and is all about the spirit of “out with the old, in with the new.” To this day, the weeks around Lunar New Year remain full of religious, community, and family celebrations.

Popular Lunar New Year Traditions

A few weeks prior to the first full moon of the year, families begin cleaning their homes from top to bottom to scrub out any lingering bad luck. If you owe debts, now is the time to repay them, and if you want to reconcile any friendships, just before the Lunar New Year is said to be the time to rekindle them.

On the eve of Lunar New Year, families traditionally gather to share the biggest meal of the year. A place setting is often reserved, empty, for those who couldn’t make it. Common dishes include whole fish, whole chicken, dumplings, noodles, glutinous rice cake, and fruit.

The following day, relatives exchange red envelopes filled with money. Fireworks and lanterns fill the skies of some towns. A feast of luck-boosting foods, including date cake, peanuts, sticky rice balls, lotus seeds, and vegetable and raw fish salad, is said to set the tone for the Lunar New Year.

Chinese Zodiac Animals By Year

Unlike astrological zodiac signs, which categorize people based on birth month, Chinese zodiac signs relate to your lunar birth year. Read on to learn about your spirit animal, plus what occupations might suit you best. 

Rat

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936, 1924, 1912, 1900

Much like their symbol, those born under the rat sign can be cagey, making them sharp in business and adaptable in large groups. With cheery personalities, those born during rat years can also be a bit picky and are strong at creative pursuits, including writing and art. 

Ox

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937, 1925, 1913, 1901

Those born during ox Chinese zodiac years are natural leaders, as they are devoted to who and what they believe in. Because they have strong views of right and wrong and value honesty, those with the ox sign can present as somewhat stubborn. These individuals excel in law and consulting. 

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Tiger

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938, 1926, 1914, 1902

Tiger signs are known for their trustfulness. Brave, smart, and accepting, they are solid leaders and fight for the underdogs. While those born during tiger years can have a short fuse, their traits are suited to careers in politics and management.

Rabbit

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939, 1927, 1915, 1903

Kind, sensitive, and thoughtful, rabbit signs are set on optimizing life in as many ways as possible (and will do everything they can to avoid conflicts). They like to reason, so rabbits can come off as unsure—but they’re just trying to pick the best ways to live their best lives. Rabbit signs do well as writers and in business and educational pursuits.

Dragon

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940, 1928, 1916, 1904

Like their fiery mascot, dragon signs like to be in control and exhibit a confident, decisive spirit. They have ample amounts of energy, which rubs off on—and inspires—those around them. Because they dislike being controlled, those born during dragon years stand out at more individual careers like finance and architecture.

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Snake

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941, 1929, 1917, 1905

Sassy yet sensitive, snake signs like to scout out the truth (and therefore, can seem a bit suspicious). At their hearts, snakes are savvy and driven, and they make stellar artists and counselors. Snakes steer clear of small talk and slide past the little speed bumps of life.

Horse

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930, 1918, 1906

Optimistic, intuitive, and active, horses are great at putting on a show as performers, entrepreneurs, or explorers. When things don’t feel right, they tend to quit or pivot and restart rather than risk losing or failing. However, they rarely give up easily and rely on their gut, heart, and brain to lead them in the right direction.

Sheep

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931, 1919, 1907

Sheep signs are followers and can be timid. This comes from their natural tendency to be gentle, considerate, and caring. Teaching, creating, and perfecting (such as editing or cleaning) are generally strong suits.

Monkey

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944, 1932, 1920, 1908

Wise in everything from business acumen to finance, monkey signs are known for generating novel ideas. When stressed, they can have a temper and struggle to think of others. Flexibility serves monkeys well in roles in business, sports, and trading.

Rooster

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, 1933, 1921, 1909

Bright as a sunrise, rooster signs are independent, ambitious, and almost always the best dressed in a crowd. Under pressure, they can be impatient—at their core, however, roosters are warm and confident. These qualities serve them well as guides, speakers, and performers.

Dog

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934, 1922, 1910

Loyal and sharp, think of those born during dog years of the Chinese zodiac as German Shepherds in human form. They offer a unique blend of courage and emotion, making them well-suited for work in medicine or the military.

Pig

Chinese zodiac sign birth years: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947, 1935, 1923, 1911

Like Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, pig signs are gentle and have generous, happy hearts. They can also seem slow-moving at times. Among the most trusting of the Chinese zodiac signs, those born in pig years are all about honesty. They make excellent teachers and civil servants.

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