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Chinese New Year: Which animal hides in your heart?

Welcome to the year of the snake.

By Rich_Maloof Feb 7, 2013 10:56PM

The Chinese calendar turns over on Sunday, Feb 10— welcome to the Year of the Snake. A child born under the Snake sign grows to be philosophical, intuitive, and elegant — but may also be something of a procrastinator, and unduly suspicious of others.Photo: Chinese New Year / Dorling Kindersley/Getty ImagesBecause China switched over to the Gregorian calendar we use early in the 20th century, the celebrations around Chinese new year are now more widely referred to as Spring Festival, Lunar New Year, or Chun Jie. While our stateside new year’s eve traditions amount to a single night of debauchery followed by a nasty headache, Spring Festival is a week-long tradition of homecoming and good wishes. Its origins, though, are a few shades darker.

Greetings: Send an eCard for Chinese New Year

In Chinese mythology, the new year was something to fear. Nián, which means “year,” was a mythical beast with a body like an ox and the head of a lion. On the last day of each year Nián would emerge to wreak havoc, going town to town on a human-devouring rampage. According to the myth, though, people learned that Nián was afraid of fire, loud noises, and the color red — giving way to a new year’s tradition of fireworks, lantern-lighting, and decorating homes with red chun lian, the banners of Chinese calligraphy that adorn doorways and spell out poetic wishes for prosperity. Red is the color of good fortune, too, which is why it’s so prominently featured in Chinese culture.

More from MSN Living: 20 fun facts about the Chinese New Year

Each lunar year of the Chinese calendar is associated with an animal. An old saying holds that “this animal hides in your heart,” according to your year of birth. And while it may not seem so great, in Western terms, to have a rat or a pig in your heart, Chinese tradition sees both honorable and dubious traits in each animal — the yin and yang of every spirit.

More from MSN Living: New year, new organized you

Note that the lunar years are cyclical and generally start in late January or early February, so the years for each zodiac sign don’t quite line up with our own calendars. If you’re born in January, chances are that you actually fall under the zodiac above the one showing your year of birth. 

Year of the Snake
(1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013)
Wise, sympathetic, efficient in communication; fickle, prone to jealousy and suspicion
Year of the Horse
(1918, 1930, 1942, 1954,1966, 1978, 1990, 2002)
Perceptive, clever, talented, independent; pessimistic, bad temper, wasteful
Year of the Sheep
(1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003)
Kind-hearted, sensitive to beauty, quiet; indecisive, timid, prone to worry
Year of the Monkey
(1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004)
Smart, self-assured, versatile; selfish, may be opportunistic
Year of the Rooster
(1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005)
Trustworthy, quick-minded, attractive; critical, may appear boastful
Year of the Dog
(1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006)
Straightforward, warm-hearted, reliable; impractical, anxious, can be irritable
Year of the Pig 
(1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007)
Tolerant, sincere, gallant; can be lazy, materialistic
Year of the Rat
(1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008)
Adaptable, witty, alert; obstinate, may lack courage, may appear impolite
Year of the Ox
(1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009)
Industrious, honest, values work and family; obstinate, not good in communication
Year of the Tiger
(1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010)
Brave, frank, trustworthy; short-tempered, hasty, over-confident
Year of the Rabbit
(1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011)
Hopeful, compassionate, peaceful; reserved, lacking foresight
Year of the Dragon
(1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012)
Dignified, energetic, ambitious; impatient, moody, prone to arrogance

Bing: Chinese New Year

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