Today (25 January) is the start of Lunar New Year, otherwise known as Chinese New Year – 新年快乐, Happy New Year! 2020 is the Year of the Rat, but what does this year have in store for you?
Chinese New Year is celebrated by over 20 per cent of the world’s population and is the biggest event in the Chinese calendar. The date changes each year, in accordance with the lunar calendar. It’s the night of the year when the most fireworks are set off across the world, to ward off monsters and bad luck.
Traditionally, children receive red envelopes to celebrate Chinese New Year. The envelopes contain money, and are meant to transfer fortune from elders to the younger members of the family. Red is considered to be a lucky colour in Chinese culture, symbolising joy and good fortune.
No, we’re not talking about Capricorn and Scorpio: Chinese culture has its own zodiac, with its own history.
The story goes that a race was organised by one of the most important Gods in traditional Chinese religion – the Jade Emperor – who invited all the animals in the world to participate.
12 turned up to compete: a pig, dog, rooster, monkey, sheep, horse, snake, dragon, rabbit, tiger, ox and rat.
As a reward for taking part, the Emperor named a year in the zodiac after each animal, while the race would decide the order.
The race course consisted of a river which had to be crossed to reach the finish line. The sly rat hitched a ride on the ox’s head, and jumped off when they reached the other size, coming first in the race – sounds like us in the gym…
The pig came last after stopping for a snack and a snooze – relatable – with all the other animals coming in between.
Each year is assigned an animal in the zodiac: 2019 was the year of the pig, and now we’re back to the start, kicking the new decade off with the year of the rat.
恭喜发财，红包拿来 (gōng xǐ fā cái, hóng bāo ná lái)
Wish you happiness and prosperity, give me a red envelope 😆
— Mandarin Morning School (@MandarinM0rning) January 22, 2020
But, beware those who were born in 1996 or 2008 – your zodiac year is actually bad luck, so make sure you incorporate some red pieces to your wardrobe this year.
For more information about your animal and to learn about Chinese New Year, visit ChineseNewYear.net.