The Year of the Sheep begins Thursday, Feb. 19 when the 4,713th Chinese year dawns with a bright moon.


The Chinese New Year is one of the biggest and most important cultural celebrations in China. The story of the Chinese New Year and the Zodiac that goes with it begins with Buddha. He called all the animals to meet him at the height of the moon’s cycle. Twelve creatures joined him and he named the years in the order of their arrival.


The rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig have cycled through as symbols of a new calendar each Chinese New Year ever since. As legend has it, those born in the year of a particular animal will have characteristics of that animal.


The sheep, which is also sometimes referred to as a ram or a goat, is an Earth animal. Those born in the year of the sheep are known to be kind-hearted, artistic, clever, and polite. They can also be shy, indecisive and overly-sensitive.


This year, 2015, is sometimes called the year of the green wooden sheep. The green comes from the association with wood, which is an Earth element. And most of the time, the year of the sheep will be a wooden year.


Jewelry for Chinese New Year

While the ram, sheep or goat is truly one of the most popular animals in the Chinese Zodiac, artists did not carve many of them – or at least there aren’t many available today. I have found far fewer artifacts of the Earth animals in my journeys to collect vintage carvings than of the animals associated with wind, fire and water.


There could be several explanations for this. Perhaps the Earth creatures didn’t seem as exotic to artists, so they weren’t frequently featured in carvings. Or, perhaps, the Earth animals were carved from wood and other Earthen materials more prone to degradation over the years than the aquatic green jades and fiery orange and red jade stones.


Either way, there are not many carvings of sheep, goats or rams left today.


There are, however, some beautiful Asian jewelry pieces that can help you celebrate the Chinese New Year in style. Because the color of the year is green, a bright green jade carving of water animals can be just as inspiring at a goat carving this year. Likewise, an earthy and intricate carved wood piece can serve as a dramatic conversation starter.