Year of Ram? Goat? Sheep?

posted on February 14, 2015

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

Year of the Ram? That depends on who you ask.

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

Year of the Ram? That depends on who you ask.

The staff at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver found no one could agree on what to call the zodiac for the Lunar New Year that begins Feb. 19. Many were calling it the Year of the Goat. But Kathy Gibler, executive director of the garden, says that sounded too crusty, like an old goat. And Year of the Sheep seemed too similar to ‘sheepish,’ as in timid.

So the garden staff eventually settled on ‘Year of the Ram,’ even though rams are male sheep, uncastrated no less. But at least ‘Year of the Ram’ sounds strong and determined.

Like a lot of people, the staff at the garden put a lot of thought into Lunar New Year’s auspicious and inauspicious symbols. It’s the biggest spiritual and commercial festival of the year for a couple of billion Asian people.

Most importantly, many Asians believe there is a great deal of good and bad luck, superstition and paranormal experience associated with the Lunar New Year, whose animal zodiacs repeat every 12 years.

Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Set Garden will offer visitors many elements of a traditional Lunar Near Year Feb. 22, the same day as Chinatown New Year’s Parade, attended each year by roughly 40,000 people.

The Garden, Gibler says, will offer stations at which people can light incense, have their fortunes read, choose lucky joss sticks, eat rice cakes, receive red envelopes, see or make Chinese puppets, play with bolo-style bats, pray to their ancestors or allow children to “run around and scream to chase out evil spirits.”

Until recently, traditional Lunar New Year’s beliefs about good and bad fortune have been culturally powerful. And while the intensity of faith for some may have waned from 50 years ago, Lunar New Year can still carry strong beliefs for many, according to Gibler and two prominent Chinese scholars.

A person born in the year of the Ram/Goat/Sheep, according to Gibler, is still often believed to have the qualities of tenderness, politeness and kindness. If Ram/Goat/Sheep are seen to have any negative qualities, it would be “shyness” and a “sensitivity” that can shift into “oversensitivity,” says Gibler, who has spent years in China and speaks Mandarin.

Popular websites devoted to Chinese New Year back up Gibler. The site, Your Chinese Astrology, says Ram/ Goat/ Sheep are “imaginative, determined and have good taste.”

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