Day: February 7th, 2008

Year of the Rat

Thursday, February 7th, 2008 | All Things, Events

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Lunar New Year, family and friends!

Today marked the beginning of Year 4705 by the Chinese calendar — the start of a 15-day celebration that culminates with the Lantern Festival on the night of the first full moon.

The year of the Rat is the first in the sequence of twelve Chinese zodiac animals, familiar to many via those brightly printed paper placemats in Chinese restaurants of yore: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. (Once so popular, I can’t recall the last time I saw one.)

The related children’s story goes that the Jade Emperor wanted to designate a dozen animals for the calendar, and announced a race through a river to determine their order. The cat and the rat, being the worst swimmers, devised a plan to cross the river on the back of the naive and agreeable ox. On the day of the race, though, the competitive rat pushed the cat off into the river, and rode the ox’s horn to victory himself, jumping off at the opposite bank to reach the finish line first. (“You dirty rat!”) As a result of the rat’s betrayal, the cat came in dead last — 13th — and did not get a year named in his honor. Swearing vengeance, the cat has chased the rat for all eternity… and has hated water ever since.

We had plans to check out the new year’s festivities going on in Chinatown this afternoon. I could hear the building din on my approach from the subway on Canal. Here, the madness on Mott. Drums! Lions! Second time in a week I was showered in confetti.

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Seemed like a fun idea at the time, but in practice… not so much, after a while. “The crazy secret about New York is that many locals can’t stand crowds.” Word. We hastily decamped to the relative calm of Baxter Street a few blocks away, where we opted instead for a lunch of Vietnamese food that thankfully, did not include rats.

Well, not that we know of, anyway.

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