An (In)complete guide to the Year of the Sheep

It's almost the Chinese year of the quadrupedal ruminant mammal, but what does it all mean?

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An (In)complete guide to the Year of the Sheep

The Year of the Sheep begins Thu 18 Feb 2015 and runs until 7 Feb 2016 – just think of all the puns ewe (that one's on us) can slip in over the next 50 weeks and three days. But what does it all mean?

The Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival) is celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar, usually January or February each year. Originally a period to celebrate deities and ancestors, the festival has grown into a time for family reunions and festivities, resplendent with tradition.

Sheep? Tell me more
Ovis aries (sheep) are quadrupedal ruminant mammals, members of the order Artiodactyla (the even-toed ungulates) but you knew that already. In fact, this year is not just for sheep and is often expanded to include other animals capable of taking you down with a swift headbutt, so goats and rams are part of the celebrations – this is attributed to the fact that a sheep mascot is generally cuter than a big ol’ billygoat.

My child is due in the Year of the Sheep. Should I be worried?
Nah. As far as children go, you could do worse than a sheep baby. The general belief is that those born under the year of the sheep are likely to be no trouble at all. With a certain sympathy to art and beauty, they're also pretty fond of a quiet life. In business affairs, they are conscientious and tend toward economical living (they, more than others, have a vested interest in keeping the wolf from the door, after all). Some Chinese mothers, however, have been trying to hurry things along and give birth before the year of the sheep begins, thanks to Chinese tabloid Global Times’ claims that sheep are way too weak and destined for slaughter rather than success. Bit harsh.

Celebrities whose children will be sheep
Now we get to the important stuff: which famous types are due a little lamb this year?

Benedict Cumberbaahtch (sorry)
After breaking a million hearts by quietly announcing his engagement to Sophie Hunter last year, there's a mini Sherlock on the way. If the couple want to be traditional, they should aim for the third, fourth or ninth of the month – lucky numbers for sheep. They should avoid the numbers 6, 7 and 8, which is awkward as rumour has it the little one's due to show up in June.

Keira 'Shepherds watched their flocks by Knight'ley (last one, honest)
With husband, Klaxons' James Righton, Knightley announced her pregnancy in the same week she was nominated for a SAG and a Golden Globe. To keep up this run of good luck, she should demand green, red or purple in the delivery room, but, sadly, no gold (sheep are humble types after all).

Zooey Deschanel
The actress' awkward, quirky ways will suit the soft-heartedness of a sheep baby. If she and boyfriend Jacob Pechenik want to ensure similar levels of Deschanel charm from day one, she should ask for bouquets of carnations and primroses (even though we’re pretty certain sheep’ll eat most flowers, regardless of the luck factor).

Kate Middleton and Prince William
Meek and thrifty doesn’t immediately scream ‘royal family’, but Kate and Wills’ child could consider a different way of living. Far be it for us to imply abdication, but the careers suited to someone born in the year of the sheep include actor, teacher, interior designer and musician. Just a thought, little royal.

Other Sheepish Celebs
Matt leBlanc: I’ll be there for ewe
Nicole ‘Kid’man
Bruce Willis: The Expendabahles
Julia Roberts: Pretty Wo(ol)man

OK, that’s enough of that, let's just enjoy watching this woolly wee guy. Happy new year, everyone.

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Meet Shaun the Sheep and Aardman Modellers

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Chinese New Year

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London's Chinese New Year

London celebrates Chinese New Year with a big parade, dance performances, martial arts, opera and local talent.

Art Macabre: Chinese New Year Workshop

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Ulster Orchestra: Chinese New Year

The orchestra welcomes guests from home and abroad to light the traditional fireworks to celebrate the Chinese New Year, with a selection of works from the classical and Chinese traditions.

A Day Of Two Dragons

Celebrate Chinese New Year and St David's Day with a Chinese dragon story told through words and dance by Liverpool-based performance artist Fenfen Huang.

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