This year is going straight to the dogs

Forget the dog days of summer. Starting Friday, dogs get a whole year dedicated to them.

February 16 marks the start of the Chinese New Year, and 2018 is the Year of the Dog.

The Chinese New Year kicks off on a different day each year, because, unlike the Western calendar, the Chinese calendar is based on the lunar calendar. So, while the actual date of New Year’s Day differs from year to year, it generally falls between January 21 and February 20.

The Chinese calendar is complicated. It’s made up of lunar phases, solar solstices and equinoxes, and elements of the Chinese zodiac. The calendar in its current form is believed to date to the 14th century BCE.

The Chinese New Year runs in a twelve-year-cycle; each year is represented by one of twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. 2018 is the Year of the Dog, whereas 2017 was the Year of the Rooster, and 2019 will be the Year of the Pig. Each new year is supposedly marked by the characteristics of each animal. The rest of the animals are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, and monkey.

Each day is broken down into 12 two-hour increments, also represented by animals. The Hour of the Dog is 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Different elemental signs are also associated with each year. For instance, the Year of the Dog that corresponded to 1934 was known as the Year of the Wood Dog, whereas 2018 is the Year of the Earth Dog. Other elemental year signs include Fire Dog (1946), Metal Dog (1970), and Water Dog (2006).

Ranked as the eleventh animal in the Chinese zodiac, the Dog is the symbol of loyalty and honesty. People born in the Year of the Dog supposedly possess the traits of honesty, friendliness, faithfulness, loyalty, and intelligence; they are considered to be straight shooters with a strong sense of responsibility.

On the downside, people born in the Year of the Dog can also be self-righteous and stubborn; at their worst, they can be cold and critical of others.

The traditional Chinese New Year is the most important festival on the calendar. As in Western cultures, the start of the New Year is considered a time of renewal, a chance to put away the bad things that happened in the previous year and start fresh.

To prepare for the holiday, houses are thoroughly cleaned to rid them of “huiqi,” or inauspicious breaths, which might have accumulated during the previous year. Ritual gifts of food are offered up to gods and ancestors. And of course, people set off firecrackers. That’s to scare away evil spirits.

Although, if you’re planning to celebrate at your hospital, you might want to think twice about setting off the firecrackers. You know, so you don’t scare all the dogs whose year this is.

Photo credit: © iStock/ly86 

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