Chinese New Year: The Year of the Rabbit

This February 3 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 Rabbit.

A rabbit
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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 look up your animal sign here.

Each animal is also associated with an element which varies from year to year - wood (ruled by Jupiter), fire (ruled by Mars), earth (ruled by Saturn, metal (ruled by Venus) and water (ruled by Mercury).

According to Chinese astrology, the year in which a person is born can reveal much about their personality traits, likely careers, compatibility (or otherwise) with others and even their destiny.

The good news is that the rabbit is considered one of the luckier signs - and we could all do with a bit of that this year. And with a reputation for calm, tact and thoughtfulness, the Year of the Rabbit could well bring some peace and a little respite from the tempestuous Year of the Tiger in 2010. But with a metal ruling the rabbit this year, steely introspection may come to the fore.

Occupying the 4th position in the zodiac, those born in the year of the rabbit are a friendly, outgoing lot who make friends and family a priority.

Their sensitive and creative nature means they will often shy away from confrontation and, if faced with an aggressive situation, will respond in a calm and measured manner. Their grace and good manners mean they are ideally suited to work as a politician or in law but risk-taking is not in their nature.

Famous "rabbits" include Frank Sinatra, Johnny Depp, David Beckham and Albert Einstein.