This is definitely a little late, but let's talk about the new year. Hard to believe it's already February, isn't it?
The Chinese Zodiac is composed of twelve animals, but the only legendary (read: fictional) animal is the dragon. Additionally, the dragon is considered to be the luckiest of the twelve animals. I find this somewhat amusing, considering 2012 is also supposed to be the year the world ends (just kidding)!
Dragon years also alternate between the five elements of the Chinese Wu Xing (Five Phases): Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. 2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon, and the Year of the next Wood Dragon will be 2024. The previous Year of the Dragon was the year 2000, Year of the Metal Dragon.
Regarding the Zodiac animals, 2011 was the Year of the Rabbit, but I think many people are more than willing to exchange one for the other. Dragons can fly! They shoot fire! They defy our attempts to will them into existence! Can a rabbit do any of that?
Japan was very hyped for the Year of the Dragon. They had filled their stores with dragon-related merchandise by the end of December. I received a dragon-shaped piggy bank from a local business, and noticed that the post office has begun issuing dragon stamps:
There was even a special ceremony in Osaka to formally welcome the near year, with an exchanging of the animals. How can an exchanging of the animals take place with live animals if dragons don't exist, you ask? Well, let's just say the Japanese are creative. I can only imagine what a pain the transition to Year of the Tiger will be in 2022.