Gong hei fat choy! Your guide to toasting Chinese New Year
The Year of the Golden Rat and all that
As folklore has it, the Chinese zodiac comes into being with a race to which the Jade Emperor, supreme deity of the heavens and the earth, invites all the animals in creation to compete. The first 12 over the line will be awarded a year that reflects their characteristics. In the end it’s the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig that make up the zodiac.
The zodiac is called saang ciu in Cantonese and forms the 12-year lunar calendar cycle. Another thread of the mythological story goes that Rat arrived first in the queue by tricking Ox. On the day the animals were to race, Rat suggested to Ox that they set out together. Ox agreed and even invited Rat to ride on his back. But as they reached the finish point, Rat jumped off Ox’s back, surged forward and presented himself as first among the animals to pay his respects to the Jade Emperor.
And so it came to be that the Year of Rat marks the beginning of each lunar cycle, followed by the Ox and Tiger with Pig bringing up the rear...