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

February 20, 2024 By Xinlin Jiang

A photo of the front of Bascom Hall with graphic treatments - drawings of starbursts in the sky and a white dragon set against a Badger-red circle.

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

As midnight struck on Feb. 10 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 with 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 and 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?

red and white rat graphic


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

Red and white ox or buffalo graphic

Ox and Water Buffalo

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

Red and white tiger graphic


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

Red and white graphics of a rabbit and a cat

Rabbit and Cat

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

Red and white dragon graphic


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

Red and white snake graphic


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

Red and white horse graphic


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

Red and white sheep graphic


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

Red and white monkey graphic


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

Red and white chicken graphic


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

Red and white dog graphic


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

Red and white pig graphic


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 Haixin Cao, a 24-year-old senior at UW–Madison majoring in communication arts, 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

As the holiday began, Vice Provost and Dean of the International Division Frances Vavrus wished all those celebrating a prosperous Year of the Dragon.

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.

Cao shared that she was most excited about the Spring Festival Gala held by Chinese Students and Scholars Association.


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A post shared by @cssa_uwmadison_multimedia

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.


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A post shared by VSA UW–Madison (@vsa_uw)

“This year marked a first for us,” shared Mai Nguyễn, a junior majoring in journalism and president of VISA. “This year we [also] 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.

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Tags: student life