In Japan the Chinese Zodiac calendar was officially adopted in 604 AD. The lunar-solar calendar lasted for some 1200 years until 1873, with the New Year being celebrated on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Each year was associated with one of the twelve Zodiac animals and one of the five elements: Metal (Gold), Wood, Water, Fire or Earth. So each animal appears in five different guises: 2017 for instance was the Fire Rooster. The full cycle of the traditional calendar is therefore 60 years, which is why the 60th birthday is celebrated in a special way.
Since 1873 the adoption of the Gregorian calendar means that the new Zodiac animal is celebrated on January 1st. The Chinese however still continue to celebrate according to the old lunar calendar, meaning that it usually falls sometime in February. Fireworks, lion dances, food and family get-togethers take place in Chinese communities around the world.
2018 will be the Year of the Dog. For followers of the Five Elements, it is presided over by the Earth Dog, and for Yin Yang followers it is a Yang year. Three, four and nine are auspicious numbers; green, red and purple auspicious colours.
For those into fortune-telling, Dog is a symbol of loyalty and honesty. People born in the Year of the Dog possess the best of human nature. They are honest, friendly, faithful, loyal, smart, straightforward, venerable and have a strong sense of responsibility. On the negative side, they are likely to be self-righteous, cold, terribly stubborn, slippery, critical of others and not good at social activities.
A happy new year to all Green Shinto readers, and a big thank you for the feedback and helping sustain this site over the years.