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3rdOn February 19, people around the world will celebrate Chinese New Year. Cities and companies have planned celebratory parades and parties, and brands have launched special edition purses and chocolates – clear signs of China’s increasing influence on global culture and economy. But for Chinese parents expecting a baby, the Year of the Sheep isn’t necessarily a boon.

The Chinese believe that although babies born in the Year of the Sheep are clever, kind and tender-hearted, they are also meek and destined for failure. This is why many newspapers have carried reports about Chinese couples (a trend that is particularly prevalent in the provincial towns) who have opted have a caesarean to ensure that their child is born in the more auspicious Year of the Horse.

The Chinese belief in the misfortunes of the Year of the Sheep is an odd combination of superstition, an incorrect transliteration of the ancient phrases related to the world ‘sheep’, and its linkage to the unpopular Empress Dowager Cixi who was born in the Year of the Sheep. However, these concerns may be misplaced considering that some of the finest artists, musicians and writers were born in ‘sheep’ years. The list includes English novelist Jane Austen, Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, Italian sculptor Michelangelo and American author Mark Twain among others.

Although many people are not swayed by the list of ‘sheep’ celebrities, for others fortune has come early. Many expectant mothers have managed to secure places in maternity wards which would otherwise have been difficult to find, while others have been offered huge discounts on delivery charges and hospital stays.

Therefore, clearly for some people, the Year of the Sheep has been lucky even before it has officially begun.

– Marylou Andrew
First published in the Aduzzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on February 15, 2015.

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