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February 5, 2013

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Snake or dragon? It's all a matter of timing

A DEBATE is raging online over the status of kids born in the period between Lichun - officially the start of spring in the Chinese lunar calendar - and the Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve, which falls on February 9 this year.

Yesterday marked the first of day of Lichun, and netizens are all at sea over whether children born between February 4-9 this year come under the zodiac sign Dragon or Snake.

The Year of the Snake will be welcomed from February 10, the previous being the Year of the Dragon.

In ancient times, Lichun, instead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, was considered the start of a new year because it was the first solar term in the 24 solar terms in a calender year.

It held a position similar to today's "Spring Festival" and was celebrated by the Chinese in olden times.

Fortune tellers and folk storytellers still regard it as the start of a fresh lunar new year.

But the online community is clearly split over the issue.

"Babies born yesterday should have the zodiac sign of snake because Lichun signifies the start of a new year," a netizen going by the pseudonym xiaonvrenjenney commented.

Others argued that Lichun only marked the start of spring.

"Only those who are born on or after the Spring Festival should be labeled a snake baby," claimed qiuyin2011.

Few others suggested that parents themselves could make up their own mind over the issue.

"Both views make sense because the Chinese traditional calendar is lunisolar and the zodiac sign depends on the parents' own choices," said Tian Zhaoyuan, a professor who specialized in traditional folklore at the East China Normal University.

Solar terms are based on the changing positions of the sun and natural phenomena like the first dew, ripening grain, while the lunar calendar, indicated by its name, is based on cycles of the lunar phase.

Both the phases are taken into account for calculating the new year, Tian said, adding that there was no definitive answer to it.

He said many places in China are still under ice despite the arrival of Lichun.

Tian said that was because the term only applied to people living in the lower reaches of the Yellow River.


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