Year of the rat
FILE PHOTO: Lunar New Year of the Rat decorations are displayed for sale at a shopping mall in Beijing, China December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

January 25 marks the first day of the Chinese New year, also known as the Lunar New Year, which also happens to be the Year of the Rat. The New Year will end on 11 Feb, 2021 when the Year of Ox begins.

Chinese across the world celebrate this day with great enthusiasm attending spectacular festivities, lavish parades, decorating their surrounding with their lucky colour red and wishing each other with prosperity and health.

If you are wondering what is the Year of Rat all about and what does it signify then scroll down to find out everything about the Chinese New Year. 

What is the Year of Rat & how it is decided?

According to the Chinese calendar there is a 12-year cycle and every year is designated by a specific animal, which means that the next Year of the Rat will occur in 12 years' time. Rat is the first animal in the group of 12 different animals in the Chinese zodiac followed by ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Chinese New Year 2018 photos
This photo taken on February 5, 2018 shows dog lanterns displayed at the Yu Garden in Shanghai, ahead of the coming Lunar New year, marking the Year of the Dog.AFP/Getty Images

It remains unclear as to how the 12 Chinese zodiac signs came to be, but there is a legendary tale about Chinese New Year celebrations that has been passed on for years. 

According to the legend, Jade Emperor organised a race for a group of animals on his birthday and the order in which the animals were placed in the competition determined the Chinese zodiac. The rat took a ride on the back of the ox and leaped from its back to grab the first position after which it was gained the posiyion of the first animal in the zodiac cycle.

What is the significance of the Year of the Rat?

Many in the Chinese culture believe that the rodent symbolises intelligence, wealth, success and wisdom. A person born in the Year of Rat is thought to be clever, optimistic, adaptable and resourceful. Those born in 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2008 fall in the Year of Rat.

Famous personalities born in the Year of the Rat are William Shakespeare, Duke of Sussex, Katy Perry, and Scarlett Johansson.

What do the Chinese zodiac signs mean?

Each of the 12 animal zodiac signs has unique characteristics:

Rat: Intelligence, adaptability, quick-wit, charm, artistry, gregariousness.

Ox: Loyalty, reliability, thoroughness, strength, reasonability, steadiness, determination.

Tiger: Enthusiasm, courage, ambition, leadership, confidence, charisma.

Rabbit: Trustworthiness, empathy, modesty, diplomacy, sincerity, sociability.

Dragon: Luckiness, flexibility, eccentricity, imagination, artistry, spirituality, charisma.

Snake: Philosophical, organised, intelligent, intuitive, elegant, attentive, decisive.

Horse: Adaptable, loyal, courageous, ambitious, intelligent, adventurous, strong.

Sheep: Tasteful, crafty, warm, elegant, charming, intuitive, sensitive, calm.

Monkey: Quick-witted, charming, lucky, adaptable, bright, versatile, lively, smart.

Rooster: Honest, energetic, intelligent, flamboyant, flexible, diverse, confident.

Dog: Loyal, sociable, courageous, diligent, steady, lively, adaptable, smart.

Pig: Honorable, philanthropic, determined, optimistic, sincere, sociable.

How do Chinese celebrate New Year?

Chinese communities across the world celebrate 2020 Year of the Rat by cleaning, decorating their homes with fancy lanterns, attending spectacular parades followed by feast with family members. They also stay up and burst fireworks at midnight to ward off evil. 

5 superstitions of the Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is not only about celebration and prosperity, there are many superstitions surrounding it. The community avoids 5  the first day of the New Year

  1. Porridge: People avoid eating porridge as it is considered that only the poor eat porridge and they don't want to be poor in the year ahead.
  2. Washing hair: Hair signifies wealth and fortune, so people don't want to wash away "good things" on the first day of the year.
  3. Medicine: People refrain from taking medicines of any sort on the first day as they believe that taking medicines on this day will make them ill the whole year.
  4. Going out: A woman is advised to refrain from stepping out of the house on the first day as it would bring bad luck to her family and herself. 
  5. Crying children: Parents try their best to keep their children happy and in good mood as crying child is believed to bring bad luck to the family.