According to CBC’s… is it the Year of the Sheep or the Goat? this year’s confusion stems from the Chinese symbol “yang” (Mandarin) or “young” (Cantonese). It’s ambiguous when translated.
“The Chinese character "yang" describes any of the ruminating mammals, with or without horns. A goat is "shanyang," while a sheep is "mianyang." (A ram is just a male sheep.) Curiously, it's never referred to as the Year of the Gazelle ("lingyang").”
A wise old man is believed to have helped the villagers. He told them that they could ward off the evil Nian by making loud noises with drums and firecrackers, and by hanging red paper cut-outs and scrolls on their doors. The Nian was apparently scared of the color red.
So like all good stories with happy endings, the wise old man helped the villagers conquer Nian. As noted in The History of Chinese New Year, the “passing of the Nian”, known in Chinese as guo nian, is annually celebrated on this anniversary date.
So if you celebrate, may your Chinese New Year’s be prosperous, healthy and happy - be it as a cute sheep, strong ram or inquisitive goat.