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19/02/2015 09:50 GMT | Updated 19/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Happy Chinese New Year! But Are We Celebrating Goats, Sheep Or Rams?

On Thursday the Chinese calendar ushers in a brand new lunar year.

It’s the longest and the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays, with celebrations traditionally lasting 15 days.

But there is a question mark over just which zodiac sign this particular New Year falls on, with interpretations varying between sheep, goats and rams.

chinese new year sheep ram goat

Sheep, goat or ram?

Hmm, why the confusion? Well it’s all down to the Chinese character 'Yang': 昜

The English translation of yang is “horned animal” – which could be any of those three beasts. Unhelpful.

The South China Morning Press has provided a rundown of how some local establishments are choosing to interpret the symbol.

SEE ALSO: When Is Chinese New Year 2015 And What Are The Zodiac Signs?

The Hong Kong Post opted for a ram, as featured on a special selection of stamps, while the Tourism Board went for a sheep. A Kowloon shopping centre chose to commemorate the goat.

Unlike the previous Year of the Horse, which was generally considered to be an auspicious time, this year, according to some astrologists, would bring a volatile economy, more transport accidents and windy natural disasters.

What’s more, some Chinese actually consider sheep in particular to be unlucky.

Anthropologist Zhao Xudong told Xhinhuanet some couples even try not to have children during sheep years because their offspring risk being “burdened by bad luck.”

He said: “This is partly because Empress Dowager Cixi in the Qing dynasty was born in the Year of the Sheep and brought about policies that stagnated China's development. All too often, when people confront failures, they attribute it to animal years. But there is no scientific evidence to prove this.”

So sheep are not looking terribly popular right now. But the parties are happening regardless and they are looking spectacular:

Photo galleryChinese New Year See Gallery

Your guide to the Chinese Zodiac

Sheep (Goat) — 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027

Personality traits: People born in the year of the sheep are associated with kindness, caring and politeness. They love art and they have a tenderness about them. They can also be shy and sensitive.

Monkey — 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028

Personality traits:Intelligence and wit are but two characteristics of people born in the year of the monkey. They learn quickly. They're mischievous jokesters who love to play pranks. They don't mean to hurt anyone, but sometimes their pranks can cause harm.

Rooster — 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029

Personality traits:Independent. Honest. Punctual. These three traits can be present in those born in the year of the rooster. They're also confident and competent. But emotionally they can be volatile, and they can't always get along with people socially.

Dog — 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030

Personality traits: You're honest and loyal, just like the family pet. You're helpful, and you have integrity. But you're not good at communicating, and sometimes that comes off as stubbornness.

Pig — 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Personality traits:Pigs are good friends, but only when you come to know them. Thus, they don't have a lot of friends. They're also known to be lazy and clumsy. Like the monkey, they'll play pranks on people and not know when to stop. They can also be naive, and get themselves into trouble.

Rat — 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032

Personality traits: The rat is adaptable and resourceful. It has good intuition, strong imagination and a deep curiosity. They'll try new things and do well at them. But they don't have much courage, so they don't make great leaders. They're generally kind, but they can also be impolite.

Ox — 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033

Personality traits: Oxen are deeply devoted to their work, and they think carefully before acting. They're moral creatures who know right from wrong. But like dogs, they're also not known for good communication skills, and a boss may not realize how good oxen are at what they do.

Tiger — 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, 2034

Personality traits: Like a predator chasing its prey, the tiger is known to be courageous and unpredictable. They're stubborn, expressive and they perform tasks in a "high-handed manner." Their decisions are firm, and they don't waver.

Rabbit — 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023, 2035

Personality traits:Impulsive, yet lovable. That's the rabbit. They possess compassion, modesty and mercy. The graceful Chinese moon goddess Chang'e is said to have taken a rabbit as a pet because of the love it had inside it. Sadly, they're not much for meditation, and they tend to put their own careers in jeopardy. They cannot handle dullness, so they're dreamers who will find ways to make life more exciting.

Dragon — 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036

Personality traits: You are Smaug. You're smart, confident and witty. But you're also dominant, and you have a bad temper. When angry, you buck little criticism. You are powerful, and yet you lack self-awareness.

Snake — 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025, 2037

Personality traits:Intelligence, intuition and wisdom. They are private, yet also ambitious. They can't stand failure. They don't say much, but when they do, they say it well. With strong powers of thought, a snake might make a great philosopher.

Horse — 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026, 2038

Personality traits:Horses crave the spotlight. They're popular, hard-working and they like to improve themselves. But they don't always listen very well. Financially, they're reckless: they're not much for budgeting. They hate limitations.

(Sources for explanations via TravelChinaGuide.com and China Highlights)

Photo galleryChinese New Year See Gallery