Photo illustration of a wood dragon over a starry night sky

Astrology with Alice: Welcome to the year of the wood dragon

This Lunar New year brings new surprises with the return of the wood dragon

Words by Alice Smith

Astrology with Alice: Welcome to Astrology with Alice, a monthly astrology column aimed at helping readers understand the vibes of the month ahead in plain English. As a Taiwanese immigrant who grew up in Los Angeles, I specialize in combining western astrology with eastern philosophy. I’ve taught modern astrology through the lens of Buddhism and Taoism, and I also draw from the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. Knowing the movements of the planets can help us make decisions around our careers, relationships, family. As the planets move around in the sky, they shift the energetic vibes we experience on Earth, and I believe in flowing with energy instead of fighting it—to work smarter, not harder. So join me on our monthly planetary lowdowns and learn how you, too, can ride the cosmic waves!

Sagittarius season has Thanksgiving, Capricorn season has Christmas, and Aquarius season has Lunar New Year. As a result, Aquarius season holds a special place in my heart as a Taiwanese immigrant because it brings feasting, family gatherings, and red envelopes full of cash. Lunar New Year happens on the Aquarius new moon, so that’s why the exact day varies year-by-year on the Gregorian calendar. This year, the lunar new year starts on Feb. 10.

Since there aren't any major astrological events happening this month (at least through the lens of western astrology) and big shifts are occurring in Chinese astrology due to the new year, let's focus instead on Chinese astrology and the significance of 2024 being the year of the wood dragon. (Please note that this focus on the Chinese system isn’t because it’s more significant than other Asian systems such as the astrology of Burma or India—it’s simply what’s within my wheelhouse.)

Lunar New Year heralds an energetic reset due to the changing of the annual ruling sign. Twelve animal signs comprise the Chinese zodiac, and this system is shared across most East and Southeast Asian cultures with slight differences. (For example, the Vietnamese replaced the rabbit with the cat, but for the most part, they’re very similar.) Every year is presided over by an animal sign, and 2024 is marked by the only mythological creature in the Chinese zodiac—the dragon.

This means that everybody born during this lunar year (Feb. 10 through Jan. 28, 2025) will be born during the dragon year. Additionally, each animal sign also cycles through five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. This year, the dragon is returning as a wood dragon (which is also called a green dragon because wood is associated with the color green in Chinese astrology).

It takes 12 years to cycle through the signs of the Chinese zodiac, so if your age is a numeral of 12, then you’re a dragon experiencing a return of your sign. However, it takes 60 years to go through all five elemental iterations of a sign, so if you’re turning 60 this year, then you’re in a wood dragon return! Since we only experience the same birth sign and element combination twice in our lives—once when we’re born and once when we turn 60—the 60th birthday is a huge milestone in many Asian cultures. (Congratulations!)

What does this mean for us? What will the wood dragon year bring? How will it affect us?

In general, the fearsome dragon is considered much more energetic than the peaceful and timid rabbit, so this year will feel more active, and we will feel as if it’s easier to summon the energy to work towards our goals.

Some signs will experience more challenges. When people experience the return of their signs, it brings a year of lessons and opportunities for growth—this means that dragon years are challenging for dragons. The dragon’s opposite sign—the dog—will also find the year challenging. It’s important to note that this does not forecast a year of catastrophe. It simply means that dragons and dogs will be challenged to grow, and if they rise to the challenge, they will level up and can actually improve their lives. (Think of it as the moment the training wheels come off a bicycle. You may fall, but each fall takes you one step closer towards mastery.)

Saturn transits are invitations by the universe to—excuse my language—grow the F up.

I find these return and opposition years very similar in flavor to Saturn transits in western astrology, which can feel like a period of testing that’s rewarded by accomplishment. Saturn transits are invitations by the universe to—excuse my language—grow the F up. Saturn is the planet of maturity.

Coincidentally, a similar theme runs through the Chinese version, which is that when you enter a return year, you offend the god of age, Tai Sui. Now, I don’t think Tai Sui is offended by you, per se, but he’s offended by the ways you aren’t acting your age. So for the dragons and dogs out there, my advice is to adopt the stiff upper lip and do the things you need to do without complaining. Like Saturn, Tai Sui rewards us with dignity, mastery, and accomplishment if we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and work.

Roosters, monkeys, and snakes will have an easier time integrating with dragon energy because they exist in the same triad as the dragon. Therefore, dragon years always pan out better for roosters, monkeys, and snakes.

Western fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) will also enjoy this year more because 2024’s wood energy plays well with fire. Wood feeds fire, after all, whereas last year’s water energy squelched the fire signs’ enthusiasm. This is music to the ears of Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius roosters especially who got hit by the water rabbit opposition last year. Not only did water energy kill their fiery vibe, but they also got hit by their opposing Chinese sign last year (rabbit opposes the rooster)!

Furthermore, Aries and Leos are particularly well-placed to receive the energy of the wood dragon in a positive manner. Wood feeds the Aries and Leo fire while, in western astrology, Jupiter will be supporting them in the form of a harmonious sextile after the planet moves into Gemini on May 25. And if an Aries or Leo also happens to be a rooster, monkey, or snake? Chef’s kiss!

Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) might feel more constrained this year because, in Chinese astrology, wood contains earth. If you’re a Taurus, Virgo, or Capricorn who’s also a snake, monkey, or a rooster, you won’t feel this as much—you might just need to apply yourself in a consistent manner to achieve your accomplishments. Opportunities will still present themselves to you, but you’ll need to meet the universe halfway with a willingness to commit and work.

Wood dragon energy is generally neutral when it comes to the western air signs (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius) and water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces). However, Geminis are receiving lucky Jupiter into their sign this year, so Geminis of all Chinese signs are getting a cosmic assist. Jupiter will amplify the good while mitigating the not-as-good, so Gemini dragons and dogs will receive a much-appreciated cosmic assist from Jupiter this year. (This was the case for me last year as a rooster going through a rabbit opposition. Jupiter went through my sign, Aries, so nothing went completely off the rails. Thanks, Jupes!)

The important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a “bad” year. Regardless of whether you’re looking at Chinese astrology or western astrology, so-called difficult times are simply dynamic times when you’re offered an opportunity to grow and improve. There’s also no such thing as a “good” year, because when energy flows smoothly and easily, people can forget to act on the opportunities. Many a “lucky” year and transit has passed people by without resulting in anything, while many a so-called “unlucky” year set people on a meaningful path.

In the end, you’re empowered to choose how this year will ultimately work out!

Published on February 6, 2024

Words by Alice Smith

Alice Smith has loved astrology ever since she read her first horoscope as a kid. She’s a certified, professional astrologer who reads birth charts for clients all over the world and has spoken at events throughout the Pacific Northwest. Alice learned to write horoscopes from her mentor Rebecca Gordon who was herself mentored by the grande dame of horoscope writing, Susan Miller. Alice has a degree in sociology from the University of Washington and is (too) obsessed with her “Furgo” (furry Virgo) cat, whose birth chart she often interprets on social media.