Today marks the dawn of a beautiful new age for everybody here at culture (not to mention for billions of people in East Asia and across the globe): this Thursday, February 19, the Chinese lunisolar calendar has decreed to be the very first day of the Year of the Goat.
There is some public disagreement, however, as to whether this actually is the Year of the Goat, the Year of the Sheep, the Year of the Ram, or the Year of Some Sheeplike, Goatlike Animal. The calligraphic character for the particular creature of the Chinese Zodiac—羊, or yáng—refers to any sort of animal that is related to, or basically looks like, our favorite caprine friends. “Goat” in Mandarin Chinese is 山羊, which literally translates to “mountain yáng”; “sheep” is 羔羊, meaning “soft yáng.” So what is it, then: goat or sheep?
Some argue that, owing to the goat’s solid footing in Chinese culinary culture, this couldn’t be anything other than the Year of the Goat. Since cartoon versions of fluffy, adorable sheep are a little better for business than the stalwart image of stubborn goat, however, a lot of corporations have quickly stepped up and heralded the Year of the Sheep. Others say that the distinction isn’t even that important, since yáng became part of the Zodiac because of its shared lingual roots with the words for auspiciousness and benevolence. Today’s Google Doodle features a sheep, but the search term that it leads to is the very diplomatic “Lunar New Year.”
Because of our deep love of goat’s milk cheeses (and adorable baby goat videos), we’ve decided to stand behind our little goat friends (our condolences, sheep—you’ll have your time to shine in another twelve years!). For the next 364 days, culture will be doling out special goat articles, great goat giveaways, and explosions of goat cuteness, so be on the lookout.
So Happy Year of the Goat, everybody!