It may already be 2023, but the start of the lunar year of the Rabbit begins shortly after the calendar new year! Are you ready for what the Chinese New year has in store? Do you know your animal sign? What about your element? Which signs are you compatible with? Who should you steer clear of?
DO YOU EVEN KNOW YOU?
Yes, it’s the Year of the Rat, but what does it all mean???
In these uncertain times, we all could use a little nudge in the right direction—a sign you might say—and the Chinese zodiac is a great additional tool to add to your millennial arsenal of personality assessments and predictions as we try to bumble through to THE FUTURE.
You’ve got your enneagrams, your horoscopes (sun, moon, and rising!), your Myers-Briggs systems (spectra or types, pick your poison), color schemes, corporate working styles, DnD alignments, Hogwarts houses, and the infinite “what kind of potato are you” Buzzfeed quizzes you took when you were supposed to be doing your laundry.*
I’ll be the first person to tell you that I love horoscopes with shameless abandon. I’ll analyze natal charts til the cows come home, and read wildly into people’s personalities with a knowing, “OF COURSE you’re a LEO!” (Geminis, keep your distance…)
I’ve also been known to whip out a pack of tarot cards at parties and scare people with my predictions and “insights” about their problems!
Hence, the need for this long overdue post on the Chinese Zodiac and fortunes for the upcoming year.
*I know you’ve all been dying to know: I’m Mashed Potatoes. “You’re down-to-earth and very low-key. Everyone feels comfortable around you.” It me—nailed it.
Our Family Pastime: Lunar New Year Predictions
I’ll blame my parents for these flights of fancy, as we grew up reading the Chinese zodiac and our prospects for the new year every year!
We’d get veteran Chinese zodiac predictor Neil Somerville’s tome for the year (as far as we’re concerned, there was no other authority, though he does seem to have tired of his own truisms after publishing the definitive and decidedly final Your Chinese Horoscope for Each and Every Year), and read up on each of our signs: Bill the Dragon, Judy the Goat, Sarah the Horse, and Me the Monkey.
To us, it was a fun activity before a big Chinese New Year feast, but for many people, it’s something to treat with real respect and caution.
People in China are often mindful of the years in which they get pregnant. People have certain hopes and wishes for their children and will actually plan the year in which they give birth. Anyone remember the rush on babymaking with the year of the golden pig last year?
People also pay attention to whether the sign of a prospective partner is compatible or not and will tsk tsk about wiley monkeys the same way any millennial worth her pocketful of quartz crystals knows that a gemini is most likely bad news.
A Crash Course in the Chinese Zodiac
In this era of searching for sense in the senseless stars (Pluto really went and messed things up there), are any of us really any closer to knowing, “Who am I?”
If you’re still on the quizzical side, I’m here with The Woks of Life edition Chinese Zodiac to beef up your swim lanes!
And when I say The Woks of Life edition, I mean this is the insight of a few generations of old wives’ tales, some not-so-careful reading over the years, and perhaps a few casual observations about people we know (that is to say, this is meant to be fun, and is in no way scientific). Just take it as a nice change of pace from the placemats at your local Chinese buffet!
But first, a little background: The Chinese Zodiac cycles through 12 years across 12 animal signs. For all the folks tempted to think that the year you were born in is going to be your year for good fortune, it’s actually the opposite. The year of your birth is often said to be trickier to navigate and calls for caution and prudence more than anything.
The myth has it that an emperor called for a race of 12 animals, and the order of the animals follows the place of each animal in the race. Over the course of the race, the animals’ traits and true colors were revealed: the resourceful rat won first place, with the diligent but slow pig coming in last.
(Supposedly there was supposed to be a cat, but the rat betrayed the cat, hence, the ongoing battle between rat and cat for all eternity!)
Now to the fun stuff…
First, what year were you born?
Unlike complicated natal charts that require the date, time, and location of birth, the Chinese Zodiac is a little more straightforward. The year you were born corresponds to an animal, and the years within each animal sign correspond to one of five elements: water, earth, metal, wood, and fire.
The rat starts off the cycle, so the animals that follow correspond to each year in a 12-year cycle. So if 2020 is the year of the rat, kids born in 2021 will be oxen babies.
JANUARY OR FEBRUARY BIRTHDAY? A QUICK CAVEAT!
The Chinese calendar does not line up perfectly with the Gregorian Calendar (i.e. the calendar we all use). That’s why Chinese New Year doesn’t fall on January 1st, but falls sometime in late January or early February. If you were born in January or February, be sure to check when the lunar new year actually began in the year of your birth to get your correct zodiac sign.
Second, what’s your element?
Starting with the elements, generally poetic and sometimes more obvious traits are derived from the nature of the element itself. Wood and Metal folk are more rigid and disciplined. Metal has ambition and can stick to the path it’s on. Wood is more natural and creative, you might say, by comparison.
Fire brings lots of dynamic energy and excitement. By contrast, Earth is stable, secure, and supportive. Water is fluid and flexible, bringing mental agility and intelligence.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve chuckled at the fact that my dad (Bill) is a wood dragon and my mom (Judy) is a fire goat. It’s a tricky combination to land given the obvious results when fire meets wood, but, hey, it can work!
Similarly, Sarah is a metal horse, and I am a water monkey. Like any sisters, me and Sarah have our fair share of differences, she with her stubbornness and general get-it-done attitude, and me with my more freeform and flexible approach. Water rusts metal. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.
There are specific differences when you cross-reference elements with animal sign traits, so keep these in mind as you’re reading through the animal signs.
For birth years ending in 0 or 1, your element is metal.
For birth years ending 2 or 3, your element is water.
For birth years ending in 4 or 5, your element is wood.
For birth years ending in 6 or 7, your element is fire.
For birth years ending in 8 or 9, your element is earth.
Third, what’s my Chinese animal sign?
In all fairness, like any person, every sign has it’s good and bad traits, so I can’t say this enough, take this with a giant grain of salt / spoonful of MSG.
So that said—now, I ask you THE question: “Hey, what’s your sign???”
The Chinese Zodiac Animal Signs
(1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032)
They’re quick on their feet and inventive, finding opportunities and welcome challenges in any situation—or ways out of tricky spots. As you can imagine, they have charm, humor, and good taste. They’re kind-spirited but can be judgmental, and their opportunistic natures can sometimes give way to scheming and conniving or greed!
(Fun fact: our cousins are twins born the year of the rat, and my aunt swears that the personality traits are split between the two of them! What’s more, she definitely agrees that they have done their fair share of devilish scheming…)
Look for: Ok with Monkey, Dog, or Pig, but Ox, Rabbit, and Dragon are best
Be careful around: Rooster, Horse
(1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021)
They’re hard-working, goal-oriented, and reliable with an unwavering attentiveness to friends and family. This trait can make them good leaders, especially when coupled with their strength of will and determination. As with anything though, this can be their downfall when they become overly convinced that it’s their way or the highway!
Even worse, sometimes they can be overly conservative in their approach, leaving opportunities on the table! Such a steadfast and serious sign can sometimes suffer from loneliness or insecurity as well.
Look for: Rabbit or Snake, but Rat, Monkey, and Rooster are best
Be careful around: Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Goat
(1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022)
These are powerful individuals: authoritative, brave, and self assured with a strong moral compass and belief system. They enjoy competition, or even fighting for a cause, but can sometimes struggle with their emotional and sensitive natures that allow them to be so passionate—sometimes becoming moody or intense.
When crossed, the combination of sensitivity and authority can make for a terrifying combination! They can sometimes find the more lighthearted or fickle animals of the zodiac silly or tiresome.
Look for: Rooster or Dog but Dragon, Horse, or Pig are best
Be careful around: Snake, Monkey
(1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023)
They’re friendly and inoffensive, with a polite sensibility that makes for a versatile disposition. They can thrive in a variety of settings and general ability to get along with others.
Their sense of responsibility and sincerity helps them create consensus—or avoid conflicts. As you can imagine, they like to keep things simple, enjoying the creature comforts of home. At worst, they can sometimes be seen as pushovers.
Look for: Rat, Goat, Monkey, Dog, and Pig are best.
Be careful around: Snake, Rooster
(1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024)
This sign is an auspicious one, as dragons are seen as intelligent and bold self-starters with big ambitions. They’re passionate about their goals and have the self-reliance, smarts, and charm to win over people, succeed at business dealings, and in general enjoy life!
Unsurprisingly, they can sometimes get hamstrung by their own egos, and will do what’s necessary to remain on top. Dragon leaders make for tough bosses, as they’re good at giving orders, and will hold people accountable to big results!
Look for: Monkey or Rooster, but Rat, Tiger, or Snake are best
Be careful around: Ox, Goat, Dog
(1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025)
These people may be one of the least predictable in the Chinese zodiac. They can be a bit inscrutable and introverted, but their perceptiveness and wisdom is undoubtable. While they have a strong gut, their analytical abilities can sometimes lose control, with feelings of jealousy and insecurity taking over.
Though they may come off as cold to those who aren’t paying attention, these individuals are generous, with a proclivity for building loving relationships and providing emotional support.
Look for: Ox, but Dragon and Rooster are best
Be careful around: Tiger, Rabbit, Snake, Goat, Pig
(1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026)
They’re energetic, spirited, and athletic in mind and/or body. While that might sound like these individuals are sporty, it’s more about a restless spirit that leads the way, helping them prioritize what matters most to them above everything else, like traveling and tight-knit relationships.
They’re natural born leaders and hate to have their freedom taken away. As you can imagine, this restlessness and independence can give way to impatience and challenges with compromise. Even a drifter mentality where they hop from thing to thing in search of the next best thing!
Look for: Tiger or Goat are best, also ok with Pig
Be careful around: Rat, Ox, Horse, Rooster
(1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027)
They’re calm and collected, and like to have time alone with their thoughts. Sometimes their sense of composure can make them seem unassuming, but these individuals have strength and compassion in equal measure, with consideration and empathy for those around them.
Their strong, quietly observant abilities come in handy when they need to make moves, but these creative thinkers can sometimes be unorganized, high-strung, or insecure. Support and reassurance in response to their empathy is key to getting along with them.
Look for: Rabbit, Horse, and Pig are best
Be careful around: Ox, Dragon, Snake, Dog
(1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028)
They’re clever, creative, humorous, playful, and fun-loving. Their wit serves them well, helping them move adeptly through life in how they interact with others and the paths they choose. They like to keep active with new projects and activities, thriving on personal challenges.
But they can sometimes be more self-serving than other more generous signs of the zodiac. While they can be confident because of their resourcefulness, sometimes, when confronted with obstacles, they can become discouraged or question their otherwise clear-eyed senses, lacking the self control to stay on track and become prone to boredom or moral crises.
Look for: Rat, Dragon, Goat, Dog are ok, but Ox or Rabbit are best
Be careful around: Tiger, Pig
(1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029)
These are self-confident individuals, with clear ambitions for the future and the dedication and honesty to see them through.
Along the way, they always welcome progressive ideas and ways of thinking, but they do take care with perfectionist and conservative tendencies that most often manifest as stubbornness and independence. They won’t hesitate to go it alone if they feel they’re on the right path.
Look for: Ox or Snake are best; also ok with Tiger or Dragon
Be careful around: Rat, Rabbit and Horse
(1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030)
Unsurprisingly, these individuals are honest, loyal, and friendly. They go above and beyond for the people they care about, bringing a prudent and diligent approach that helps them go to great lengths to support others.
However, they can be temperamental and sensitive, sometimes suffering from mood swings.
Look for: Rabbit is best; also ok with Rat, Tiger, Monkey or Pig
Be careful around: Dragon, Goat, and Rooster
(1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031`)
They’re generous, trustworthy, and warm-hearted. These are kind and pleasant people who are looking to live a full life—but one that doesn’t involve stepping on others to get ahead. That said, they’re okay to put other people first.
They’ll surely be able to see and appreciate the finer things in life, and can be big spenders on luxuries. While you might think they could be perceived as snobbish or greedy, they actually can suffer from being taken advantage of.
Look for: Tiger, Rabbit, and Goat are best; also ok with Rat, Horse, and Dog
Be careful around: Snake or Monkey
Like I said, there are positives and negatives to any animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, so proceed with humility in the year ahead!
Be sure to visit our Chinese New year greetings post to learn the various ways of greeting friends and family during the Chinese New year holidays.