University of Wisconsin-Madison

02/20/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/21/2024 15:57

Celebrating the year of the dragon: Discover your zodiac and UW–Madison’s Lunar New Year


Editor's note: Story by Grace Jiang and graphic design by Jordyn Babalola. Both Jiang and Babalola are student interns in University Communications.

As midnight struck on February 10th over Lake Mendota, cheers and claps filled the air as the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Asian community came together. They were making dumplings and sharing their traditions to celebrate the Lunar New Year and welcome the year of the dragon.

For people who celebrate the two-week-long holiday - known by many names across Asian cultures, including Spring Festival or Chūnjié in China, Seollal in Korea and Tết in Vietnam, just to name a few - the dragon year is special for its association prosperity, success and fulfillment. Culturally, the dragon is known for making rain and ensuring bountiful harvests. Historically, only the most powerful leader, the emperor, could wear clothes with dragons on them. Today, the dragon continues to be cherished, not only as a zodiac sign but as a symbol of cultural pride.

Many cultures across Asia celebrate Lunar New Year follow a 12-year zodiac calendar, with each year represented by a different animal. These animal symbols have endured over centuries and have adapted to local traditions - for example, the ox and rabbit of the Chinese zodiac are instead represented by the buffalo and cat in the Vietnamese tradition. The animals continue to be integral to modern festivities, and each one carries its own lore and attributes, influencing aspects of life and belief from marriage to fortune.

Find your sign

Now, it's your turn to discover the traits and tales of your year of birth. Which zodiac animal are you?



1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
Intelligent, quick-witted and resourceful


Ox and Water Buffalo

1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
Diligent, hardworking and steadfast



1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
Courageous, brave and competitive


Rabbit and Cat

1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
Cautious, prudent and peaceful



1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
Determined, ambitious and dominant



1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
Flexible, adaptable and intuitive



1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
Courageous, energetic and passionate



1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
Gentle, kind-hearted and empathetic



1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016
Free-spirited, agile and clever



1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017
Devoted to work, with a great thirst for knowledge



1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
Loyal and honest, works well with others



1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019
Modest and honest, a symbol of peace and harmony

A threshold year for dragons

The lunar year of one's birth, occurring every twelfth year, is regarded in Chinese tradition as a threshold year; one needs to be careful, wearing red colors to avoid bad luck.

"I'm excited yet tempered by caution," shared Cao, reflecting on her birth year's recurrence. "I'm embracing the tradition of wearing red, believed to ward off misfortune, right down to my socks and underwear."

Celebrating across campus

In Madison, celebrating the Year of the Dragon illuminates the rich tapestry of Asian cultures on campus, each contributing their good wishes to the celebration of a shared cultural pageant.

Celebrating the Year of the Dragon, Madison's Asian community congregates in myriad forms, from banquets to performances, to welcome the year's promised prosperity.

Haixin Cao, a 24-year-old senior at UW-Madison majoring in communication arts, shared that she was most excited about the Spring Festival Gala held by Chinese Students and Scholars Association.

In China, the nationally-televised New Year's Gala is similar to the Super Bowl in its cultural significance. In Madison, the CSSA's gala is one of the biggest festivals in the Asian community and includes dance, music and stand-up comedy performances.

"We aspire to showcase Chinese culture and foster engagement," shared Yuxiao Wu, the gala's director. Wu, a senior double-majoring in economics and psychology, emphasized the gala's role in bringing the community together to celebrate new beginnings.

This year, the Vietnamese Student Association teamed up for the first time with the Vietnamese International Student Association, which was established last year, to ring in the Year of the Dragon.

"This year marked a first for us," shared Mai Nguyễn, a junior majoring in Journalism and president of VISA. "This year we did a potluck so people brought their own food and we all shared together. The vibe was about people coming together and celebrating something of our shared culture."

The event, held in Memorial Union's Great Hall, welcomed the campus and wider communities to an evening of dining, music and dancing.

Members from the Madison Chinese Culture Association perform a reinactment of a traditional Chinese painting, Dà Táng Shì Nǚ, or Grand Tang Ladies. Chinese Students and Scholars Association

The band Outcast Opening performs the song shān Hǎi, or Mountain and Sea Chinese Students and Scholars Association

The hosts, organizers and performers for the Spring Festival Gala gather on stage to celebrate the night and thank the audience. Chinese Students and Scholars Association

Performers from VSA entertained onlookers with Múa Lân, the lion dance. Vietnamese Student Association and Vietnamese International Student Association

From left to right, UW-Madison students Bao Hoang, Natalie Mai, Chi Duong, Mai Nguyen, Minh Tran, Hillary Thach celebrate the new year with Bucky Badger. Vietnamese Student Association and Vietnamese International Student Association

VSA Dance performs Múa quạt, or fan dance. Vietnamese Student Association and Vietnamese International Student Association

See more photo stories