Year of the Rat

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Happy New Year!

Chinese New Year 4706, which begins today, is the Year of the Rat, which holds a place of honor as the first creature in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese lunar calendar.

Legend has it that the rat was the first to arrive when Buddha summoned 12 animals to name a year in each cycle after each one of them. The rat was followed by an ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

“The charm and innovative personality of the rat is legendary – he did not become the first sign of the cycle without good reason,” Theodora Lau wrote in her “Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes.”

The Chinese lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, and is constructed in a different fashion than the Western solar calendar, with the beginning of the year falling somewhere between late January and early February, according to the Chinese Cultural Center of San Francisco. In China, the horoscope is often consulted to learn how to deal with a difficult boss or understand different personalities.

The Steamy Kitchen, a blog featuring modern Asian cooking, can help you get ready for tonight’s feast.

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