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The Sheep Are Coming!

February 19, 2015, is the start of the Lunar New Year and the year of the sheep. AKA Chinese New Year, this important holiday has been a big deal for more than 4,000 years. Today nearly half of the globe’s population celebrates it, honoring family and marking the advent of spring. This year the holiday runs from the big day on February 19 through February 25. U.S. cities with Chinatowns like San Francisco and New York City will host celebrations, so keep an eye out for announcements of a lion dance or dragon parade.

Sheep are the artists of the zodiac and tend to be kind, sweet and generous. They like support from their group and are good team players. They like peace. They are sensitive. Since the zodiac has twelve signs, a person is a sheep if they are born this year or turning any multiple of twelve. If someone you know is turning 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, flatter them—they love to be complimented. Sheep may love deeply, but they like to hear it first. Tell your sheep you love or appreciate them, and loyalty and/or passion will be your reward.

Things to do that will please the Green Wooden Sheep this year: Clean out your closet, and straighten your kitchen (the sheep likes things tidy). Decorate with some bamboo (strong) and flowers. Paint an accent wall—this sheep likes color, so think red or purple for your living room (the heart of the home), soft gold or terra cotta for the dining room (earthy) and soft and serene whites, creams and pastels for bedrooms. The sheep is an herbivore, a green sheep. So drink green tea, have a green juice smoothie, push the veggies.

We are coming out of the year of the swift horse, which was active and impatient, and next year is the tricky fire monkey. So this year, embrace the sheep’s serenity, gentleness, reasonableness and beauty. Some ways to embrace the energy of the sheep:

Seriously de-clutter your office. You need to make room for good fortune to settle. The extra space will become filled with new, exciting things or projects. Let your office reflect who you are. But spend wisely—it’s not a year of wealth flooding in. This is the year of personal connections, building genuine relationships that may become lucrative in the future. De-clutter your mind too. When you leave the office, get out of your own head. Quitting time means letting go.

No matter how cold, open up your house. Each day leading up to the New Year and then throughout February 19, open the windows to let the stale air of the past exit and new opportunities and good luck sweep in. Make this a game to play with the kids (they love to open and close things). Even if it’s cold, you and your family will be fine as this is a year of good health and self care. On New Year’s night, if you are awake at midnight, open a door or window briefly and feel the good luck breeze wash over you.

Feast together. On New Year’s Day, share a meal with your family and talk about the future and its possibilities. (Do not talk about the past.) Eat at a traditional Chinese restaurant if you can. Dumplings are wonderful and most kids love them, or try wonton soup with white rice. If you can get the kids to eat it, seafood represents wealth. If you eat in, serve long noodles (for long life) with chopsticks. Your kids will end up slurping them down, but that’s half the fun.

Be generous. Give small gifts to children (love is a gift). Little pouches or red envelopes with small tokens or money are lucky for children, and well as for the giver. Also donate items as you de-clutter; these are gifts to others as well.

Have fun with your kids. Make Chinese lanterns (there are YouTube videos with easy instructions). You can even use the good-luck red envelopes to make the lanterns (buy them on Amazon.com or from other vendors). Have your kids bring them to school or the Chinese restaurant. Set up a scavenger hunt for the kids to search for coins.

Wish your Asian friends and neighbors a successful sheep year. They will appreciate your sentiment and be impressed with your cultural knowledge. And since the sheep is not known for big moves, savor many special small moments this year. Go ahead and embrace your inner sheep!

This article was first published in Working Mother.