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In this photo taken Thursday April 10, 2014, a baby goat is delivered to the Vermont Goat Collaborative in Colchester, Vt. The male goat will be raised on a rural farm to feed refugees and immigrants. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

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ELIZABETH FLORES •Star Tribune com April 25, 2011 - Minnestra, MN - IN THIS PHOTO:] Sheep waited as home-schooled children led them to the grass for the first time this Spring at Gale Woods Farm. ORG XMIT: MIN2013061814195273

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In dog-eat-dog world, best to avoid birth in Year of the Sheep

  • Article by: William Wan
  • Washington Post
  • May 10, 2014 - 7:46 PM

– Some people are born lucky. Parents in China, however, would rather not leave their kids’ fate to chance.

For the past few weeks, many couples have been trying desperately to conceive, racing against time to have a baby in the fortuitous Year of the Horse. Their reasoning: No one wants a baby born in 2015, the dreaded Year of the Sheep.

Sheep are meek creatures, raised for nothing more than slaughter. Babies born in the Year of the Sheep, therefore, will grow up to be followers rather than leaders, according to some superstitions. The children are destined for heartbreak and failed marriages, and will be unlucky in business, many Chinese believe. One popular folk saying holds that only one out of 10 people born in the Year of the Sheep finds happiness.

Health professionals say ­fertility consultations have spiked in recent months. Some doctors even have expressed worries that there may be a corresponding jump in abortions later this year, as couples realize they missed the horse year cutoff. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Year of the Sheep (also called goat or ram) begins Feb. 19, 2015, so the window for conception closes around the end of this month.

Many patients have inquired about early delivery via Caesarean section to ensure a horse-year birth, said Li Jianjun, an obstetrician at Beijing’s United Family Hospital.

Some doubt the furor will have a notable impact on the Chinese birthrate this year. But the baby-mania is so widespread that the state-run China News Service issued a report trying to debunk the “unfounded” myth of bad luck for those born in Year of the Sheep.

“We try our best to dissuade couples from believing the sheep superstitions,” one official at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said. The woman, who requested anonymity, said the subject is so prominent that it’s often addressed in classes for would-be parents.

But the medical professionals don’t have an easy sell. The official said that even her CDC colleagues are obsessed with the supposed luck a horse year brings.

It’s unclear how the Year of the Sheep came to acquire its bad reputation.

Each of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac has it virtues and faults. The undisputed favorite is the dragon, often followed by tiger and horse, which is associated with success.

Even rats (considered clever and agile) and snakes (which look like mini dragons) are considered lucky. But sheep have fewer advantageous qualities, according to some interpretations.

Those born in sheep years are thought of as passive, loyal, generous and kind. Some of those virtues may be wonderful in an ideal world, but not so useful in the high-pressure real world.

“It’s an unfair and outdated superstition,” said Dong Mengzhi, 74, honorary president of Beijing’s Folk Literature and Art Society. “But it’s a convenient way for many to explain an unpredictable world.”

Unfair or not, one of the first things Zhang Xiaolei’s parents did when she got engaged in 2012 was sit down with a Chinese zodiac calendar. “We all agreed to hurry up and avoid the sheep,” said Zhang, 26.

 



 

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