2019 and the Chinese zodiac
The year 2019 is the Year of the Boar (or alternatively Pig) according to the Chinese zodiac, which consists of 12 animals, going in this order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat (Sheep in Japan), Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig / Boar (in Japan a word for wild boar is used, while in China the word is associated with pig).
This also means that this year closes the cycle, which will begin anew starting with the year 2020 (which will also be the year of the Summer Olympics held in Tokyo).
The order of how these animals are ranked is not random but rather tied to the legend of them being summoned by the Jade Emperor and racing to get to him.
For example, the Rat compensated for its small body and inability to swim across the river by sitting on the Ox`s head and jumping in front of it right before the finish line, ultimately winning the Rat its first place. Thus, it`s rumoured to be smart and cunning, as are people born under this particular sign.
People who are born under the Boar / Pig sign are believed to be proud, stubborn and potentially lazy, but also caring, good at socialising and honest. Interesting trivia is that their supposed laziness is tied to the legend, where the reason why the Pig ended the race last was that during the race it got hungry, started feasting, and later fell asleep, only to continue racing after resting well.
The pictures used here are part of what is called Bokusai-ga (墨彩画) or in other words the art of painting pictures using calligraphy utensils and colourful ink. All the ones here were painted by Suzuki Keisho Sensei, one of the teachers at the Tokyo Calligraphy Education Association. Another point is that they are all drawn on a "nengajo" (年賀状), a customary New Year`s card. These are being sent to friends, co-workers or other people who have taken care of us in the previous year and with whom we hope to maintain good relations in the new year as well. Nengajo are usually being sent two or three weeks before the year`s end and the Japanese post office goes to great lengths to assure that they arrive precisely on the 1st of January.
We sincerely wish you all the best of luck in the Year of the Boar, 2019!