KITCHENER — Does the fact that Chinese New Year's falls on the same day as Valentine's Day this year portend of great things to come for those romantic souls? Well, it's all in the stars.

This Chinese New Years trumpets the beginning of the Year of Tiger, and like its namesake, the upcoming year can be temperamental and unpredictable. Much like romance.

The Year of the Tiger's formal name is Geng Yin and is the third sign in the Chinese zodiac. This new year will begin on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, and replaces the Year of the Ox.

Bryan Trussler, professional astrologer and consultant as well as a teacher, said this month's transition from the Year of the Ox to that of the tiger can be tumultuous as both animals are so different: one steadfast and stentorian, the other all instinct, unpredictable, watching and waiting to pounce. Tigers are to be carefully watched.

"They are the predator," said the Kitchener astrologer. He points out that in the U.S., previous years of the tiger brought unexpected upheavals such as Watergate, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Cuban missile crises and the Iran/Contra crises.

"In Canada, not so much," he said of our milder political climate, though everyone should still be wary. "Expect to be blindsided, out of left field." When it comes to love in the year of the tiger, there could be more energy, and more conflict. "The tiger likes nothing better than a good fight. They'll get what they want."

Trussler warns, the year of the tiger can signal flared tempers and conflict, not a good combination particularly if you are trying to woo someone. On the plus side, tigers are courageous and the year should be met with happiness and a smile, and, above all, don't criticize others. Such a positive beginning for the new year could set the standard for the next 12 months.

In a broader sense, the year of the tiger can signal variable weather such as late snowfalls, lots of wind and early thaws, said Trussler. "In the States, they could have a bumper crop of tornadoes."

Politically, the tiger can bring early elections but with little real change to the country, even if Canada ends up with a different party running the government. At home, the tiger wards off fire, thieves and ghosts.

Trussler holds a master's degree in religion and culture from Wilfrid Laurier University and developed his interest in astrology in 1987, attracted by both its history and complex characters. To understand Chinese astrology, he suggests conjuring an image of a compass containing circles within circles. An inner circle is broken into dawn and noon, dusk and night. The next circle contains the four seasons, followed by a circle representing the four elements: fire, water, metal and wood. The 12 animal signs show up on the zodiac in one of the largest, outer circles. Each animal has a particular temperament, which is then reflects what is to come.

At the heart of all this is the Taoist philosophy, the theory of Yin Yang, which are two opposing principles leading to changes in the universe. The Year of the Tiger symbolizes the female Yin energy, opposite of the Yang male energy of the dragon.

Both Chinese New Year's and Valentine's share the colour red as a powerful symbol of good luck and happiness and both holidays can be seen as a time of renewal and of love, a time for sharing. Frances Tse of the Central Ontario Chinese Cultural Centre in Kitchener, said that in China, young people often go the temple on Valentine's where they give a wish of love, while lighting incense.

Tse's friends, Peter Chieh and his wife Shiao-Yu, said that in China, Valentine's Day has about the same meaning as it does in North America, a time when young lovers get together for a special day though in China they tend to stroll outdoors in nature. They said there is also a similar, though more ancient holiday, based on the legend of the seventh daughter of the Emperor of Heaven.

According to legend, the daughter left her father's side to marry a lowly human cow header and raise children. Upon discovery, the young woman was forced to return to her heavenly paradise. Her poor husband implored the father to reunite the couple and he agreed to just one day a year, thereafter celebrated as the 7th Goddess Day. The holiday falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually in the summer months. "A lot of people like to get married on that day," said Shiao-Yu.

Love in China when the Chiehs were children is very different than today, said the couple. During the era of their parents, many young people would have been married off according to a matchmaker's recommendation and the matchmaker was often just a family friend, not a professional. The young couple would have to be from families of equal social standing. Love never entered into the equation.

Even as he was growing up, public affection was frowned upon. "It was quite reserved," Peter said. "You were not allowed to touch each other."

Today, he said, Chinese couples chose their own partners and tend to marry later in life after finishing their education and embarking on a career though it's not unusual to have friends and family members make recommendations, given young people are too busy to search on their own.

"It's different than in the West," he said. "In China, they partner for life. It's a serious matter. You have to be there for each other, you have to work for each other. Divorce is not common."