People around the world are gearing up to celebrate the Chinese New Year this weekend, which will mark the Year of the Rooster.

This year, the celebration - also known as the Lunar New Year - will fall on Saturday 28 January, with parades, music, acrobats and pyrotechnics from London to Beijing and Sydney.

The rooster is one of 12 animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac, which attaches animal signs to each lunar year in 12-year cycles.

The animal signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The Chinese New Year in 2018 will ring in the Year of the Dog, followed by the pig in 2019.

Each animal in the zodiac is associated with its own element — metal, wood, earth, water or fire — while each year is assigned an element. The combination of these two elements is said to define a person's personality, for example, people born under the sign of the rooster are said to be trustworthy, sociable and hard-working.

Chinese New Year
People select decorations for the Lunar New Year in Handan, northern China STR/AFP/Getty Images

What is the history behind the zodiac animals?

The origins of the Chinese zodiac is shrouded by myths and legends, but it is understood that the animals of the zodiac have been popular since the Han Dynasty (206BC to 220AD).

Pottery artefacts dating back to the Tang Dynasty, 618 to 907AD, show the animals were popular at that time – but they have also been found on relics from the Warring States Period, 475 to 221BC.

Some historians say the animals of the Chinese zodiac were brought to China via the Silk Road, the central Asia trade route that brought Buddhism from India to Han China in the 1st or 2nd century BC.

Others argue that the belief predates Buddhism and has origins in early Chinese astronomy that used Jupiter as a constant – due to its 12-year orbital period around the Earth.

Some suggest the use of animals in astrology began with ancient Chinese nomadic tribes, who developed the calendar to calculate the seasons for agriculture and hunting.