In the Western world, rats are typically associated with filth and are considered pests. Not in the East. In Chinese culture, rats are a sign of wealth and surplus. Because they’re so good at reproducing, married couples pray to them for children.
The Rat is the first of all Chinese zodiac animals. It is believed that zodiac signs came from a myth about a competition called by the first god Yu Huang or Jade Emperor to decide the cycle of the zodiac animals and the zodiac’s order was determined by the order in which they arrived to the party. Reportedly, the rat asked the ox to take him on a ride to cross the river and then jumped down before the ox crossed the finish line, so the rat won the race and became the first of the zodiac animals. That is why every Chinese new year is represented by animals and it is also believed that people born in a year that represents a particular animal shares its traits and personality.
The 12 zodiac animals are the Rat, Ox, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. The entire cycle is repeated every 12 years. 2020 is considered the Year of the Rat.
Recent years of the Rat are 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020. It is said that those who are born in the Year of the Rat are clever, quick thinkers; successful, but content with living a quiet and peaceful life.
The new year is also associated with many beliefs that have become part of the tradition of ushering in the Chinese new year.
Gavin Lam, owner of Casa Décor on Middle Road, said that putting bright lights in your home is a good luck charm. “I recommend them to get beautiful bright lights to light up their new year and future,” he said.
Blue is the color of 2020, according to florist Roberto Barcelo of New Paradise Flower Shop on Middle Road. “Many of our Chinese clients are ordering blue flowers from us because they say that is the lucky color for 2020. They get blue roses and ask for arrangements tied in blue ribbons,” he said.
“Many of them also buy the lucky bamboo plants from us because each stalk represents love, wealth, health, and happiness. The more stalks the bamboo has, the more luck will come to anyone who owns it,” he added.
Red decor, lanterns, and couplets are a must in homes and businesses, according to vendor Racquel Tan of Garapan. “Bright red décor outside of the house are believed to scare away evil spirits. We have many couplets and the Chinese character Fu outside our house. We hang them upside down to invite the arrival of good luck to our family and business,” she said.
Fish, pork dishes, and dumplings are a must in welcoming the new year, according to Majesty Chinese Restaurant manager Cheli Chunxiang. “Fish symbolizes savings for the incoming year and intends to welcome prosperity in your home or business. Pig knuckles, which pigs use to get food close to them, are also served during the new year as this symbolizes retention of wealth,” she said.
“Dumplings representing union, harmony and wealth. Usually each family member helps to make dumplings. Peking duck is of course always present in any Chinese celebration because it is tradition,” she said.