The Year of the Fire Rooster

This year, I got to partake in two New Year’s Celebrations. The usual renewal of the Gregorian calendar year on January 1st and Chinese New Year (CNY). CNY falls on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar. Thus, it changes every year.

As we say goodbye to the Year of the Monkey, we welcome the year of the Rooster. It is the 10th animal in the cycle of the 12 zodiacs. But how were the zodiac animals chosen?


The Chinese Zodiac Animals.  Credit: China Highlights

There are many versions of this story. The one I know well and many say, begin with the Jade Emperor wanting to establish a new calendar with 12 animals. Doing so, he created a “swimming race”, by crossing a river and meeting him at the Heavenly Gate. The first 12 animals to cross would be chosen.

In the beginning, the cat and the rat were good friends and neighbours. They agreed they would wake up early and cross together. The next morning, the cat slept late, and the rat did not wake the cat, as he was too excited about the race and forgot the agreement. When the rat arrived at the river, he met the ox. The rat asked the ox to carry him across the river, and the ox kindly agreed, as long as the ox could be first, and the rat could be second. When the ox reached the other side, he was excited to be the first zodiac sign, but didn’t not realise the sneaky rat had jumped off him and ran to the Jade Emperor to become the first zodiac sign. The ox was next and became the second zodiac.

Next, came the tiger and the rabbit, who were both competitive and fast. The tiger was strong, but still struggled to swim through the currents, which is why he was awarded the third zodiac. The rabbit didn’t swim, and instead used stepping stones. He also used a floating log to reach the shore. For his smart approach, the Jade Emperor gave him fourth place.

Then, was the dragon. The Jade Emperor questioned why he was not first, as he could fly. The dragon said that he noticed a blaze of crops and even though his place in the zodiac race was at risk, he could not stand by and watch the villages food be destroyed. He used his breath to extinguish the fire and also to blow a log toward the rabbit as he was stuck crossing the river. For his kindness, the fifth zodiac was awarded to the dragon.

The Jade Emperor then heard water bashing. The horse was wading through the water. Just as it stepped onto the river bank, expecting to be the next zodiac, the snake unwrapped itself from around the horses hoof. The horse leaped in shock. The snake became the sixth zodiac and the horse the seventh. Since then, the horse has always been afraid of the snake.

Next came a raft which held the Sheep, the Monkey and the Rooster. The three had found the raft onshore, unclaimed by anyone, and used branches as raft to paddle across the river. The sheep became the eighth, the monkey the ninth and the rooster the tenth zodiac.

Curious to see the next contender, the Jade Emperor saw the dog splashing through the river. As the dog walked up to him, the Jade Emperor asked why he was so late in the race. The dog replied that he had not bathed in the water for a long time, and was enjoying splashing around in the water. He became the eleventh zodiac.

Finally, the pig reached the other side. The Jade Emperor questioned why he was last. The pig had been greedy, eating before the race and fell asleep from being so full! The pig was granted as the twelfth zodiac sign. The Jade Emperor declared the race over.

Later, the cat woke up and realised he had missed the race and could not become a zodiac! Ever since, the cat has hated the rat, which is why they chase and kill them!

Another version of this story, is that both the rat and the cat climbed onto the ox to cross the river. However, the mean rat pushed the cat into the river, where it either was pushed down the river and too far to reach the Heavenly Gate or drowned, as cats cannot swim!


Zodiac Elements. Credit: Online Chinese Astrology

Your year of birth not only describes what animal you are, but your element. The five elements of zodiac are earth, gold (metal), water, fire and wood. Your element and animal describes your characteristic and personality.

To find out your animal and element, go to:

Here, you can find out what Chinese astrology says will happen for you in 2017, in regards to your work, health, love and fortune. It’s very interesting, mine seems to be spot on with my plans! My zodiac is the Wood Pig (1995). Even though I was born in 1996, my birthday was before the CNY in 1996 and I always thought my sign was the rat!


CNY is first celebrated by many people travelling to their home provinces or abroad with their families. It was expected that as many as 2.5 million people would travel by land, 356 million by rail, 58 million by air and 43 million by boat for the Spring Festival. This movement of the population is also known as “chunyun”.

Houses and streets will be decorated with red, the main color of the festival and also believed to bring good luck. Also, as it is the year of the Rooster, many decorations relating to the animal will be shown.

A tradition at the Spring Festival is to give a “Hongbao”. These a red envelopes that contain money, which are given to bring good luck and fortune to the receivers. A more modern feature of this has been adopted by the mobile app WeChat where you can send a red envelope over the app, and the money is automatically added to the WeChat account.


Fireworks are set off on all of the corners. To me, this was crazy! The most popular item to set off is firecrackers. They will be one string off small firecrackers, followed by three large ones. This is to symolise sounding out the old year, and bringing in the new one! The first time I heard firecrackers setting off, it was directly in front of me across the street. It was so loud, I literally ran the other way!

To read more ways Chinese New Year is celebrated, go to China Highlights (link down below).

I hope you enjoyed this post about the Year of the Rooster and the Zodiac story. Find out your zodiac sign, and comment or send me a message about your zodiac and what 2017 entails for you. Let me know if it sounds right or way off the truth!

Sources of information:





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