Chinese New Year: Year of the Dragon

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This January 23rd is Chinese New Year and traditional celebrations will be going on throughout the world. Often lasting 15 days, it is a time for family, feasts and fireworks and this year Chinese people everywhere will be ringing in the Year of the Dragon.

Chinese dragon
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Linked to the lunar cycle, the Chinese zodiac features 12 animals - rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

There are many stories regarding how the animals came to be picked, but most commonly it is thought that Buddha invited all the creatures in the world to join him for a New Year celebration. The above are the 12 that turned up!

Each year is assigned an animal via the cycle of 12 - for instance, 1972 was the year of the rat, 1973 the year of the ox and so on. By this method it is possible to work which animal sign you were born under (though those born at the end of January or the beginning of February may need to double check as the date of the new year varies).

You can find out more about your animal sign here.

Similar to western astrology, the characteristics of the animal that rules a particular year will reveal much about their personality traits, likely careers, compatibility and destiny.

A symbol of good fortune, the dragon is considered one of the most powerful signs, full of passion, ambition and blessed with superior intellect.

Occupying the 5th position in the zodiac, those born in the year of the dragon are respected in Chinese culture as born leaders. Dragon people are fiesty and have the power to make things happen. Perfectionists by nature, they can be aggressive and sometimes irritable, proud and stubborn.

They are gifted, intelligent, tenacious and generous and able to turn their hand to anything. They are also somewhat snobbish and impressed by wealth, prestige and splendour.

Famous "dragon" people include Sigmund Freud, Martin Luther King, Grace Kelly and Christopher Reeves.