Happy New Year! You may be thinking that New Year has come and gone and we are already settling into the doldrums of January, breaking all those well intentioned resolutions we made in the spirit of the new year. Well, cheer up, I have good news. There is another reason to celebrate: Chinese New Year on February 10.

Chinese New Year is not celebrated on the same day each year as is the celebration which is based on the Gregorian calendar. The Chinese calendar is based on lunar-solar cycles. Five cycles of twelve years each make up the entire lunar cycle of 60 years.

Each of the twelve year cycles is represented by an animal, together which make up the Chinese zodiac. If your birth year is not represented on the chart below, merely add or subtract 12 years to one that is to find your zodiac sign. Of the many legends from which Chinese New Year sprang, one is that Buddha named the years after animals that came to him as he prepared to depart from the earth.

Horse 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002

Sheep 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003

Monkey 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004

Cock 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005

Dog 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006

Boar 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007

Rat 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008

Ox 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009

Tiger 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

Rabbit 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

Dragon 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2012

Snake 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2013

After finding your sign, you need to find your Chinese horoscope, which will be based on your animal sign and one of the five basic elements of Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth.

So what is the origin of Chinese New Year? Born out of legend, the first celebration is said to have been a triumphant victory of a Chinese village over a monster. For two years in a row the monster had wreaked havoc and destruction on the village, but on the third year the villagers fought back with noisemakers, like drums and firecrackers, and by hanging red paper banners around the village. The color red is protection against evil, and that, combined with the noise scared the monster away. The villagers then celebrated for several days.

Another version of the legend states that a god disguised as an old man offered to get rid of the monster and challenged the monster to eat animals of prey instead of people. He then rode the monster away from the village, but not before advising the villagers to hang red banners every year just in case the monster decided to come back.

Regardless of how the celebration, which is known as the Spring Festival, began, it is an important time of the year. Houses are given a thorough cleaning during the month before, traditional foods are served, and gifts of money in red packets are distributed. Old grudges are forgiven and forgotten and as behaving badly will bring bad luck all year, people are cheerful, and friends, family and neighbors spend days in visiting. Fifteen days later the Festival of Lanterns brings the festivities to an end.

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