Americans have superstitions we sometimes forget about. It’s thought, for example, that whoever catches the bride’s bouquet at a wedding will be the next to get married. A New Year’s meal of black-eyed peas and greens will bring good luck and so will a four-leaf clover. Be careful not to walk under a ladder or let a black cat cross your path, though. You should definitely knock on wood on Friday the 13th. The list goes on.
In San Francisco, you can’t go far without hearing a conversation about another type of superstition: astrology, both Western and Chinese. Unlike the former, which uses months to classify people, the Chinese Zodiac follows the lunar calendar, assigning an animal and personality traits for every year. It also cycles through five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) with each reigning for two years.
On February 19th, we leave behind the year of the horse, associated with intelligence and victory in battle, and enter the year of the sheep, likened to calmness and creativity. Many view the sheep as meek and susceptible to poverty. In other words, 2015 is not a lucky year in which to be born.
China boasts one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and upward mobility is so highly valued that it’s almost understandable what has happened throughout the year of the horse: many aspiring mothers have rushed to get pregnant—and deliver—long before the dreaded year of the sheep. A spike in the birth rate also took place in 2012, the year of the dragon, the only mythical creature in the Chinese Zodiac and the most lauded.
Chinese officials have warned that the birth craze could engender too much competition several years from now when children born in the year of the horse enter the job market. The Chinese economy is indeed strong and there are certain equal opportunity protections for job seekers. Still, it’s not unheard of for an employer to state a preference for a Gemini or Aquarius candidate over, say, a Leo (or to outright ban the hire of Virgos).