Happy Chinese New Year!
The Lunar New Year begins this year on January 25th, and it’s the Year of the Rat. Let’s explore the Chinese Zodiac!
The Year of the Rat is the first animal in the 12-year parade that is the Chinese Zodiac.
Do you wonder how the Rat ended up being first?
How Rat Was Chosen As The First Animal In The Chinese Zodiac
The Rat is described as being clever and a quick thinker, and one of the stories explaining his placement in the Zodiac proves that.
This particular myth tells how the Jade Emperor had decided that animals would represent the calendar signs. To decide the order of the Zodiac, he planned a party and announced that the animals would be arranged according to the order in which they arrived to his feast.
But, only the first 12 animals would be selected.
Rat was excited to go to the party, so he woke early and headed out as quickly as his little legs would carry him. It wasn’t long before he encountered Ox with his long legs, who was much faster.
When they came to the river, Rat realized he couldn’t continue on, as he was a poor swimmer.
Thinking quickly, Rat came up with a plan. He asked Ox for a ride!
Ox said yes, but only if Rat would sing to him along the way. (We’re not sure that was such a great idea…have you ever heard a rat sing?)
Another version of the story has Rat’s best friend Cat riding alongside on Ox, since they both needed help getting across the river.
Halfway across, Rat pushed Cat in the water! Ever since then, Cat and Rat have been bitter enemies.
Once across the river, Ox, with Rat on board, headed for the finish line. Ox was certain he would be first!
But at the last minute, Rat scampered up Ox’s back and leaped off his head! Rat was declared the winner because of his cunning and cleverness and became the first animal in the zodiac list.
The rest of the story relates the adventures of the other animals and the order they arrived to become the remaining symbols of the Chinese Zodiac, but we’ll tell that another day.
How The Animals Relate To The People Born In Those Years
In Chinese culture, each of the animals of the zodiac has certain characteristics and personalities. These are often used to describe people born in the year represented by that animal.
Since the Rat was clever and quick-thinking, people born during the Year of the Rat are said to be optimistic, energetic, and resourceful, but happy to live quietly and peacefully and be generally successful.
Not only does the Chinese Zodiac have 12 animal representatives, each animal cycles through 5 elements, making the entire zodiac cover 60 years!
The elements are Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth. Rat is the first animal, and Metal is the first element in the cycle, so this year (2020) represents the Metal Rat, and in the Chinese culture, it means a year of new beginnings!
Now that you’ve learned more about the Chinese Zodiac and the Year of the Rat, go here to enjoy exploring the Lunar New Year festivities held around the world at this time.
And check out the delicious recipes from our eat2explore China box so you can create your own Near Year party feast!