This weekend, the Year of the Rat begins. January 25 is the Lunar New Year, aka Chinese New Year. It marks the beginning of the lunisolar Chinese calendar, which is based on the phases of the moon and the sun’s longitude, and has been in use since the 14th-century B.C.E. Although the modern Gregorian calendar is the go-to for day-to-day life, the lunisolar calendar is used to calculate festival dates, and some special occasions, such as weddings.

The Chinese zodiac cycle consists of 12 animal signs, one for each lunisolar year. This upcoming cycle is the Year of the Rat, the first sign; last year was the Year of the Pig. In folklore, the Jade Emperor held a competition to decide the zodiac animals. The rat asked the ox to carry him across the river, but jumped down before the ox crossed the finish line, winning the race. 

According to the China Institute, the rat is a symbol of fertility and abundance. People born during this year (or previous Years of the Rat, such as 1984, 1996, or 2008) are believed to be intelligent, creative, and resourceful, and have the ability to form strong social bonds. Additionally, each sign is associated with one of five elements — and this year’s is metal. So to get specific, 2020 is also the Year of the Metal Rat. Metal symbolizes stability and longevity, and according to the Daily Telegraph, those born in 2020 will “live a stable life and have the ability to turn unlucky events into fortune.”

Read more about What The Year Of The Rat Means & How To Celebrate It

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