Happy Year of the Rooster!

The Chinese year of the rooster begins on January 28, 2017 and will end on February 15, 2018. The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, which means that it has months based on the phases of the moon but that it occasionally adds an extra month (intracalary month) to keep the calendar more or less in step with the seasons of the year.

According to the Chinese calendar, each day begins and ends at midnight. Each month begins with the dark (new) moon. The year begins with the new moon near the midpoint between the winter solstice (the day with the shortest day length) and the spring equinox (the day when the length of daylight and night are equal).

To keep the lunar calendar in step with the solar calendar, Chinese astronomers marked out 24 points, 15 degrees apart, along the ecliptic, which is the path that the sun seems to follow in relation to the stars. These points are called solar terms. Since the earth’s orbit around the sun is not perfectly circular, the amount of time it takes for the sun to pass from one term to another varies slightly. As a result, there are one to three solar terms per lunar month. The solar terms are used to keep track of the solar year, which is important for farming. When the lunar month falls too far behind, in relation to the associated solar terms, it is repeated as an intercalary month. For this reason, you can find intracalary months at different points in the year of the Chinese calendar.

Each year in the Chinese calendar is associated with one of 12 animals. The calendar goes through a cycle of 12 animals, in an orderly cycle, beginning with the rat:

  1. Rat
  2. Ox
  3. Tiger
  4. Rabbit
  5. Dragon
  6. Snake
  7. Horse
  8. Goat
  9. Monkey
  10. Rooster
  11. Dog
  12. Pig

Unlike the Western zodiac, this cycle of animals has nothing to do with the constellations of the ecliptic. Instead, the 12-year cycle seems to be based on the cycle associated with the planet Jupiter, which takes 11.86 years to orbit the sun.

According to Chinese astrology, each year takes on some of the attributes of the associated animal. Also, the animal associated with the year of your birth affects how you are perceived and how you present yourself. The animal associated with the month of your birth affects how you are internally. The animal associated with the day of your birth affects your true nature, and the animal associated with the hour of your birth affects your secret nature. Of course, with all of these different animals competing for attention, practically any interpretation is possible!



Photo by Kaeru

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