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What's With All The Monkeys On New Years Greetings?

by Justin Sevakis,

Ashley asks:

I recently went through the articles "Happy New Year -- Anime Style!" While looking though all of the celebration pictures, I noticed a few of them involving monkeys in one way or another. So I was wondering if you could explain to me why that is or if it was purely coincidental.

Somebody hasn't seen Fruits Basket! Or been to a Chinese restaurant with the Chinese Horoscope place mats!

2016 is the Year of the Monkey, according to Chinese astrology. The Chinese astrology system was invented during the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE) and was further developed during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE), and is still celebrated in most Asian countries today. The basic idea is that people's destiny is controlled by (or at least coincides with) the position of planets in a 12-year cycle (derived from the 11.86-year orbit of Jupiter, as observed by ancient Chinese astronomers). The overarching philosophy incorporates Yin-Yang philosophy, the theory of the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth), and some elements of Confucianism.

Over time, the 12 years of the calendar were each named after an animal that was thought to embody the traits of someone who was born under that year. Most people only bother following those 12 Zodiac signs; the years are further categorized by element and color. Each zodiac sign has its unique personality traits, good matches with other signs, bad matches, and fortunes.

Rat 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008 Wise
Ox 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009 Industrious
Tiger 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010 Valor
Rabbit 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011 Caution
Dragon 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012 Strength
Snake 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013 Flexibility
Horse 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014 Forging ahead
Sheep 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015 Unity
Monkey 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016 Changeability
Rooster 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017 Being constant
Dog 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018 Fidelity
Pig 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019 Amiability

Chinese New Year operates according to the Lunar calendar, so technically the Year of the Monkey doesn't start until February 8th. But Japan celebrates New Year's according the Gregorian calendar, so they break out all the cute animal mascots for January 1. Because This is Japan, and they simply must have their cute animal mascots.

2016 (or 4713 by the Chinese calendar) is a Red Fire Monkey year. The monkey is said to be intelligent, witty, inventive and playful, but also a trickster, opportunistic and not very trustworthy. As such, the horoscope predicts 2016 to be a year in which anything can and will happen. It's a year of personal breakthroughs and accomplishments, but no big upheavals or revolutions in society at large. (The fire element adds dynamism, strength and persistence to the mix, indicating both creativity and aggression. Red is the color of good fortune and joy.)

The monkey brings motivation, communication, humor and wit, which means good things for business and problem solving. This also means things will be very hectic, so diet and exercise are key to making it through without burning out! It's a year for risk-taking, for trying new things, for being inventive. The pendulum swings in favor of the nimble-minded and gutsy. Things are going to get weird and crazy, but if you can stay quick and smart, chances are you'll come out ahead. However, if you're someone who tends to go with the herd and trust collective wisdom, this might not be a good year for you.

Monkey years are said to be for learning -- not just in general, but specialized things that pique your interest and apply to what you like to do. Monkey years also tend to cast aside old ways of doing things and/or bosses that just aren't working well. Year of the Monkey is said to bring global economic growth and a lot of new life-changing inventions.

How all of this affects each zodiac sign varies quite a lot. For people who were born in the year of the Monkey, Dragon or Rat, this is going to be a crazy year, filled with confidence and amazing things. Goats, Rabbits and Oxen will also have a good year, and make some long-needed progress in all areas of life. Roosters and Horses are in for excitement, and not all of it will be the good kind. Tigers, Snakes, Boars and Dogs are in for a rough ride, and are advised to stay focused and not get too emotional about what happens if they want to make it through okay.

Some famous Monkeys include Maaya Sakamoto, Ayumi Itō, Nana Mizuki, Tomokazu Sugita, Junichi Okada, Shizuka Itō, Hiroyuki Sawano, Mamiko Noto, Minori Chihara, Yuko Goto, Katsura Hoshino, Rika Morinaga, Keiichi Kuwabara, Yuri Shiratori, Mokona Apapa, Reiko Kiuchi, Keiji Gotoh, Michiko Kawai, Mick Nekoi, Run Sasaki, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Shirō Saitō, Hikaru Midorikawa, Rica Matsumoto, Aya Hisakawa, Kōji Yusa and Yuriko Fuchizaki. Outside of the anime world, famous monkeys include George Lucas, Leonardo da Vinci, Mick Jagger, Danny De Vito, Macaulay Culkin, Zooey Deschanel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Channing Tatum, OLIVIA Munn, Chris Pine, Daniel Craig, Will Smith, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Gillian Anderson, Josh Brolin, Guy Ritchie, Timothy Olyphant, Jane Krakowski, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Parker Posey, Anna Gunn, Charlie Hunnam, Ryan Gosling, Kristen Bell, Rebel Wilson, Kim Kardashian West, Nick Cannon, Christina Aguilera, Jason Schwartzman, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Josh Hutcherson, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas. I happen to also be a monkey, having been born in 1980.

And no, I don't really buy into this, but like any kind of fortune telling, it is kind of fun.

Disclaimer: Entertainment purposes only. If you use this as actual life advice, you deserve whatever fate befalls you.

Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!) animenewsnetwork.com.

Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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