While champagne corks have been long popped on Dec. 31 to mark for the start of the western New Year, the 2018 Lunar New Year begins on Feb. 16.

Because the Chinese calendar is based on the moon's rotation, the new year falls somewhere between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20 each year. People celebrate with lots of food and festivities, as well as dragon and lion dances for good luck. There are red paper lanterns, a bold color to signify a bright future, and firecrackers to chase away evil spirits.

This new year, also known as the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, is the Year of the Dog. Each year is represented by one of a dozen zodiac animals that represent 12 symbolic temperaments.

Here's what you need to know about the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Dog to help you celebrate.

It started with animals

Using the lunar calendar, which originated some 3,500 years ago, people created the Chinese zodiac to track time, reports Quartz. The 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac appear in this order: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat/sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Adding the elements

In addition to the 12 animals, there are also five elements: gold (metal), wood, water, fire and Earth. Each zodiac sign is associated with an element. So, for example, a water dog comes around once every 60 years.

A dancing dragon is part of a Chinese New Year parade in Chicago. A dancing dragon is part of a Chinese New Year parade in Chicago. (Photo: bjphotographs/Shutterstock.com)

The dog's personality

According to Chinese cultural belief, people born in the Year of the Dog are said to inherit some of the animal's characteristics. They are likely to be loyal, patient and reliable. They are honest, willing to help others and have a deep sense of duty. They are generally agreeable until rubbed the wrong way. They can sometimes be judgmental and picky, but are righteous and always the first to speak out against injustice.

Animal plus element

The belief is that your animal sign plus your element decide your personality. This year, there are five types of dogs, for example:

  • Wood Dog (born 1934, 1994) — Sincere, reliable, considerate, understanding and patient
  • Fire Dog (born 1946, 2006) — Intelligent, hardworking and sincere
  • Earth Dog (born 1958, 2018) — Communicative, serious and responsible in work
  • Gold Dog (born 1910, 1970) — Conservative, desirable, cautious and always ready to help others
  • Water Dog (born 1922, 1982) — Brave and self-centered, even seemingly selfish; well-versed in dealing with financial issues

Lucky things for dogs

Each zodiac animal has all sorts of specific things that are supposed to be lucky for them. Here are the lucky everything for people born in the Year of the Dog:

  • Lucky numbers: 3, 4, 9, and any combination (like 39 and 43)
  • Lucky days: the 7th and 28th of every Chinese lunar month
  • Lucky colors: red, green and purple
  • Lucky flowers: rose, cymbidium orchids
  • Lucky directions: east, south and northeast
  • Lucky months: the sixth, 10th and 12th Chinese lunar months

red origami dogs Red origami dogs are part of Lunar New Year decorations. (Photo: Coompia77/Shutterstock)

Unlucky things for dogs

Each zodiac animal also has specific things that are thought to be unlucky for them. Here's what to avoid if you were born in the Year of the Dog:

  • Unlucky colors: blue, white and gold
  • Unlucky numbers: 1, 6 and 7
  • Unlucky direction: southeast
  • Unlucky months: the fifth and eighth Chinese lunar months

Most and least compatible mates

People born in the Year of the Dog are believed to get along best with rabbits, followed by tigers and horses. But dogs don’t mesh well with roosters, followed by dragons or sheep/goats.

Good careers for dogs

Because they are loyal and trustworthy, people born in the Year of the Dog excel in careers where they serve others. Some recommended careers for dogs include police officer, counselor, professor, politician, judge, nurse and scientist.

Famous dogs

Well-known people born in the Year of the Dog include Elvis Presley, Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, Michael Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Madonna and U.S. presidents Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.