Chinese New Year

Feb. 7, 2008
Jan. 26, 2009
Feb. 14, 2010
Feb. 3, 2011
Jan. 23, 2012

The Chinese Calendar is one of the oldest calendars in the world, dating back thousands of years, though it has undergone many changes in that time.

The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar. New Year usually begins on the second new moon following the winter solstice, or the first new moon after lichun.

(Lichun is one of 24 markers that chart the solar year. It falls on or around February 4 in the Gregorian calendar.)

There are 12 months in the Chinese calendar, each lasts 29 to 30 days. The months track the course of the waxing and waning moon. This results in a calendar shorter than the solar year by about 10 days. To keep consistent with the solar year and the changing of the seasons, an intercalary month is inserted every three years. (The Chinese calendar is much, much, much more complicated than that. For a better explanation see:

Calculating the Chinese New Year

or in pdf format:

Countries that celebrate the lunar New Year include:
Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Mauritania, Viet Nam (Tet), Indonesia, Mongolia (Tsagaan Sar) Thailand (not an official holiday), Laos, and Brunei. Also cities across AustraliaCanada, and the United States have large Chinese New Year celebrations, making it one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world.

Year of the Rat

2008 (or 4706 in the Chinese calendar) was the Year of the Rat. Rat is the first symbol of the Chinese Zodiac. There are two stories regarding how Rat came to be first:

Many years ago, according to an Ancient Chinese legend, Buddha decided to choose animals as the signs of 12 year cycle. He summoned all the animals to be present at a meeting next morning and he would secretly select the first 12 animals arriving to be the signs of a year respectively. The rat and cat, who were good friends, agreed to wake each other up. Next morning Rat, who woke up first, broke his promise and left cat sound asleep as he quietly left alone to arrive at the meeting.

Buddha selected the first 12 animals as they arrived to be the signs for the years. They came in this order: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and the pig. By the time the cat arrived everyone was celebrating their good fortune and that is why there is no cat in the zodiac. Needless to say, Cat and Rat became enemies from then on. Chinese Zodiac Symbols

Chinese Zodiac

Another legend is that Rat tricked Ox into carrying across the river on his back, then dashed to the finish before ox had time to get out of the water. Thus Rat is before Ox.

Either way, the important thing to remember is that Rat is tricky, full of promises and good words, but in the end just wants to win the race.

Coincidentally, the Year of the Rat always falls on election year. [Hmmm…
Fox News Hires Karl Rove]

[published Feb. 7, 2008]

2009 was the Year of the Ox. 2010 was the Year of the Tiger [the sexiest of all zodiac symbols –Ed.], 2011 was the Year of the Rabbit, and 2012 is the Year of the Dragon!

Chinese Zodiac

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