Site icon Well+Good

The Lunar New Year Ushers in the Lucky Year of the Dragon—And It’s Giving Hot, Fire-Breathing Energy

A collage of a paper dragon and two hands, symbolizing the chinese zodiac year of the dragon.

Image: W+G Creative

Sure, dragons may not be real, as in you won’t happen upon one anytime soon. But in the Chinese zodiac? You better believe these fire-breathing serpents are as real as can be. And we’re about to be well-acquainted: The quiet “yin” energy of the 2023 Year of the Rabbit will be replaced with the white-hot “yang” energy of the dragon come February 10, 2024, when we welcome the Lunar New Year (a 15-day celebration ending with the Lantern Festival). As we enter the Year of the Dragon, we can expect the dragon’s traits—nobility, confidence, and strength—to reign supreme, giving us the energy we need to really get after it in 2024.

“It’s bold, it’s fast-moving—much different than what last year was all about,” says doctor of Chinese medicine Jenelle Kim, DACM, LAc, author of Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation. “If you want to do something, don’t just test the waters—that would’ve been recommended last year. But this year, jump in, dive in, put yourself out there!”


Experts In This Article

Feelin’ fired up? Thought so. Ahead, learn more about the key traits and significance of the dragon in the Chinese zodiac, and what you can anticipate during the Year of the Dragon, according to your Chinese zodiac sign.

What are the key characteristics of the Year of the Dragon?

Not unlike Western astrology, which includes 12 different houses in astrology and 12 zodiac signs, the Chinese zodiac consists of 12 different zodiac animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Rather than governing pieces of the calendar year, however, the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac govern different years within a 12-year cycle.

People born during the Year of the Dragon (1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, and 2024) tend to be strong, charismatic, bold, and confident. These natural-born leaders are considered to have the most auspicious zodiac animal sign of them all and bring their peers along for the ride on their paths to greatness. “They’re symbolic of success and being this larger-than-life character that exudes honor and intelligence,” says Danielle Chang, founder of event company Luckyrice and co-founder of modern Chinese remedies brand The Hao Life.

This larger-than-life attitude, however, can also lend itself to some of the less favorable Year of the Dragon traits, like arrogance and impatience. With great power comes great responsibility, and unfortunately for the dragons, they can be a *little* lacking in the areas of self-restraint, focus, and practicality.

“The dragon’s energy is not just vital and dynamic—it’s also a little bit unpredictable,” explains doctor of Chinese medicine Anna Hsieh Gold, DACM, LAc. “If you think of the way that a dragon moves, it’s sort of like an infinity or a figure-eight: It moves quickly in one direction, and then quickly in the other,” she says of the mythical serpent’s slithering. As such, people born in the Year of the Dragon can be similarly unwieldy, throwing caution to the wind when they take action.

Entering a dragon year can give us all a taste of that impulsive energy, says Dr. Gold, which is why it’s important to be intentional with your actions and remember to pause every now and then to assess how many irons you have in the fire.

What is the significance of the dragon in the Chinese zodiac?

According to ancient Chinese legend about how the Chinese zodiac’s order came to be, all of the land’s animals were called to compete in a race, which would dictate the order of the signs within the 12-year cycle. So the legend goes, the dragon was poised to win the race and earn first place, but instead, landed in fifth, following the rat, ox, tiger, and rabbit.

Versions of this story vary, says Dr. Gold, but all suggest that the reason the dragon fell behind in the race was because it was helping others on the journey to the finish line. Some versions of this story say it was because the dragon was helping the rabbit to cross a river along the race route, while others say it was because the dragon got distracted from the race by a village in drought and stopped to create rain for all its inhabitants.

In any case, the dragon came to be heralded for its willingness to help others succeed, beyond symbolizing power, good luck, and nobility. “People don’t see the dragon as a nurturing animal, but it’s actually pretty generous,” says Dr. Gold. “It takes care of other animals, and that’s why it is the symbol of abundance—not just for one type of person but for the world.”

What makes the Year of the Dragon lucky?

Associated with fortune and prosperity, the powerful dragon is considered one of the luckiest animal signs in the Chinese zodiac—which feels fitting given the winged serpent is also the only imaginary or mythical creature in the zodiac. It would have an otherworldly predisposition for good luck.

Fun fact: The dragon zodiac sign is considered to be so lucky that some families in countries like China, Taiwan, and Singapore have attempted to conceive within a certain time frame in order to have their child born within the Year of the Dragon. “[During] the Year of the Dragon, there’s always a baby boom,” explains Chang. “A lot of Asian women and families believe that if you have a child during that year, then you’re imbuing your child with all of these positive mythical characteristics.”

What cultural traditions are associated with the Year of the Dragon?

According to Dr. Gold, long-held superstitions suggest that those born in the Year of the Dragon should wear red throughout the year. Red is considered to be one of the luckiest colors in Chinese culture, and surrounding yourself with it is supposed to amplify good luck during your zodiac sign’s year.

As is custom with every Lunar New Year (which falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice), red envelopes containing money are often exchanged between friends and family in celebration of the year to come. This tradition, called hongbao, reinforces the hope for good fortune in the months ahead.

It’s customary, too, to sweep and clean the house before the Lunar New Year begins. This is said to sweep away any bad luck from the year prior and create a fresh, clean slate onto which good luck can “stick.” In addition, many families dine on foods that are symbolic of wealth and success, like fish, dumplings, noodles, and oranges.

What to expect from the 2024 Year of the Dragon

Just as Western astrology divides the zodiac signs into four astrological elements, Chinese astrology groups its animal zodiac signs into one of five elements—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water—depending on the year. The element cycle overlaps with the 12-year animal cycle, such that every new lunar year has both an animal and an element associated with it, and together, they determine the year’s unique energy. The element for 2024 is wood, which makes it the Year of the Wood Dragon.

While timber and a fire-breather don’t exactly seem like a match made in heaven, the strength of the wood element is thought to support the forward momentum of the dragon, adding necessary reinforcement. “Wood is known for its stabilizing element but also allows for action and expansion,” explains Chang. “Think about how wood contracts or grows depending on the weather and temperature.”

The element of wood is also associated with springtime, rebirth, and change—all welcome themes for the fortuitous, forward-thinking dragon. “In springtime, things are starting to sprout, and there’s this energy of moving forward,” says Dr. Gold, of what we can expect from the Year of the Wood Dragon.

Because, again, the dragon is the luckiest side in the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Wood Dragon can bring major successes in the realm of personal, professional, and financial growth. “It’s really great for people who are building new careers or developing creative ideas,” says Chang.

Dr. Gold suggests luck in love, too. “This is a really good year for people who are looking to start a family because the dragon is also a symbol of fertility in Chinese culture,” she says.

How the 2024 Year of the Dragon will affect each Chinese zodiac sign

According to Dr. Gold and Dr. Kim, the pig, monkey, rat, and rooster will be the luckiest signs during the Year of the Dragon, while the tiger, ox, and dog will most likely run into some hurdles along the way. If you’re in the latter camp, Dr. Gold recommends you “slow down a little bit and be really conscientious about the choices that you make in your career, the friends you hang out with, where you put your money, and how you’re taking care of your body.”

Still, “we’re all going to be basking in the auspiciousness of the dragon” and will benefit as a collective from the sign’s power, says Dr. Gold, who likens the dragon’s energy to that of the sun. While we all benefit from the star’s life-giving rays, staring directly into the light can be blinding; and in the same way, charging full-steam ahead into a dragon year can be dizzying. Instead, throw on some sunglasses, and “don’t get too hung up on the power,” says Gold. “Keep your foot on the ground.”

To learn how the Year of the Wood Dragon will affect you, in particular, read on for your Chinese zodiac sign. (Don’t know yours? Just scroll down until you spot your birth year.)

Rat

Birth years: 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

Because the rat is considered to be highly compatible with the dragon, this year is poised to be especially auspicious for you, says Dr. Gold. Ever the social creature, you may benefit from taking risks in the social sphere; get out of your comfort zone, and take a chance on potential new friends or flings that you might otherwise have let fizzle. Career moves are in your favor as well, this year.

Ox

Birth years: 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

While the dragon signifies abundance for all, it’s still true that it’s more compatible with some signs and less so with others. Given that the ox falls in the latter camp, it’s worth treading lightly this year if this is you, say both Dr. Gold and Dr. Kim. Keep your head down… and your eyes on the prize. In fact, the experts recommend taking foundational steps this year that will better set you up to achieve success next year, during the Year of the Snake.

Tiger

Birth years: 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

The tiger enjoyed its time in the spotlight in 2022, but the feline will be better off behind the curtain this year. According to Dr. Gold, who is a tiger herself, it’s not the most auspicious year for a tiger. “This year, I’m not going to put forth as much dynamic energy into my practice,” she says, “and if you’re a tiger, it’s also a good idea to restrain yourself and stay on the down-low a bit.”

That being said, the overall luck of the dragon year could be favorable for you in pursuits of career or money, so don’t close yourself off to strokes of good luck that may come your way.

Rabbit

Birth years: 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

Hot off the heels of the Year of the Rabbit, the shy hare may run into challenges this year, considering how its personality directly opposes the loud, aggressive energy of the dragon. “The rabbit’s a little more quiet, a little bit more introspective,” says Dr. Kim.

As such, you could encounter conflicts in areas of love, work, and health, and you’ll want to lean on your loved ones for support—especially your two Chinese zodiac BFFs, the monkey and the pig.

Dragon

Birth years: 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

While the Year of the Dragon might be cause for celebration for the rest of the Chinese zodiac, dragons might expect some pushback from the universe. “In Chinese astrology, if it’s your year, you have to be a little cautious,” explains Dr. Gold. It’s thought that being in your own zodiac year can usher in bad luck or misfortune—so take extra care to be intentional with how you’re spending your energy and your money, advises Dr. Gold.

Snake

Birth years: 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013

A mixed bag of challenges and opportunities is in store for snakes this year ahead of your lunar year in 2025. Known as a “little dragon” in Chinese folklore, you’re considered to be compatible with the dragon… but their intensity may sometimes conflict with your subtle nature.

Trust your intuition, and keep an eye out for the warning signs of burnout at work early in the year; there are opportunities to climb the corporate ladder (if that’s your thing), thanks to assistance from surprise mentors later on, so you’ll want to be on your A-Game when the time comes.

Horse

Birth years: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014

You have the gams to jump over any challenges with ease in 2024. Because the horse is a “yang” sign, your energy aligns closely with that of the dragon. In fact, one of the most common good-luck phrases used during the Lunar New Year references your relationship: Lóngmǎ jīngshén, which roughly translates to “I wish you a healthy and lively year,” references the mythical creature lóngmǎ, a half-horse, half-dragon figure in ancient Chinese folklore.

In turn, the Year of the Dragon could point you toward major growth opportunities in your career (especially in tech, finance, and cyber areas, says Dr. Gold), but it may require you to step back, at times, and let the fire-breather take the reins.

Goat

Birth years: 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015

Peaceful, generous, and kind, “yin” goats aren’t exactly compatible with dragons, and as such, might find the dynamic nature of this year to be too demanding. However, the ambitious dragon could also support you this year in the realm of financial growth—in particular, via new revenue streams and business ventures, says Dr. Gold. So, if you’ve wanted to pursue a side hustle for some time, now is the year to test the waters.

Monkey

Birth years: 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

You can consider yourself the main character of the Chinese zodiac this Year of the Dragon: Luck is totally on the monkey’s side. New friendships and opportunities at work will take center stage for you this year, opening the door to multiple avenues of personal growth.

But according to Dr. Kim, your compatibility with the dragon really spells good fortune across the board—so reap all the bananas you can.

Rooster

Birth years: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

Another one of the signs that’s highly compatible with the dragon, the rooster is likely to benefit a good deal from the dragon’s time in the spotlight, says Dr. Gold. Expect good fortune in career and relationships, and don’t be too picky about the opportunities that come your way. With the forward-propelling wind of the dragon at your back, fresh experiences are in store—should you be open to them.

Dog

Birth years: 1932, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

The dog tends to be at odds with the dragon, largely because they both share a propensity for leadership roles and are similarly determined and hardworking in nature. So, this probably won’t be your luckiest year yet… but according to Dr. Kim, you’re likely to be aware of your own struggles and look at life a little differently as a result. Consider this an opportunity to carve out time for self-reflection, rather than charging ahead relentlessly toward your goals.

Pig

Birth years: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

Like the rat and the monkey, the pig is basically besties with the dragon, which could make this year a particularly favorable one for you. According to Dr. Kim, the stage is set for luck in every area of your life. Sure, at times, the forward momentum of the determined dragon may be a tad overwhelming for your laidback and playful energy, but it’s also important to remember that amazing things can happen when you venture outside of your comfort zone.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information