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On 31st January 2014 we welcome in the

Year of the Horse !

What Is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is the most important of the Chinese holidays, and is a time of feasting with the family, celebration, fireworks and gift-giving. It is a 15-day holiday, beginning on the first day of a new moon and ending with the full moon on the day of the Lantern Festival.

The Chinese calendar is based on the lunar year, so the date of Chinese New Year changes every year. The Chinese calendar follows a 12-year pattern with each year named after an animal. There are various stories which explain this. The simplest is that Buddha (or the Jade Emperor) invited all of the animals to join him for a New Year celebration, but only 12 animals turned up. To reward the animals that did come, Buddha named a year after each of them in the order that they arrived, starting with the Rat, followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat (or Sheep), Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. (Find another version of the story to print, below) Depending on the year you are born, you are believed to have the various character traits of that year's animal. 

Rat - February 19, 1996 | February 7, 2008

Ox - February 7, 1997 | January 26, 2009

Tiger - January 28, 1998 | February 14, 2010

Rabbit - February 16, 1999 | February 3, 2011

Dragon - February 5, 2000 | January 23, 2012

Snake - January 24, 2001 | February 10, 2013

Horse - February 12, 2002 | January 31, 2014

Goat - February 1, 2003 | February 19, 2015

Monkey - January 22, 2004 | February 8, 2016

Rooster - February 9, 2005 | January 28, 2017

Dog - January 29, 2006 | February 16, 2018

Pig - February 18, 2007 | February 5, 2019

Gung hei fat choi! Happy New Year!

The Story of the Chinese Zodiac Many people have wondered over the years how it was that the rat, the smallest of all the creatures, was given the honour of having the first year of the Chinese Zodiac named after him. This is the story I have heard. A very long time ago, the Jade Emperor, who ruled the heavens of China, sent a message to all the animals asking them to come together so that he could give each of them a year, which would make it easier for the people of China to keep track of time. The cat and the rat were good friends and decided to travel to meet the Jade Emperor together. When it came time to leave, however, the cat

was taking a nap. The rat, realising that he would have to use all his cunning to be noticed by the Jade Emperor, left his friend sleeping, and set off on his own. This is why there is no year named after the cat, and also why cats have hated rats ever since. When the rat arrived, the Jade Emperor welcomed him and the other animals and told them that they should all take part in a swimming race. Once again, the rat realised that he would have to be very clever if he wanted to win the race. He found the largest, strongest animal, which was the ox, and pleaded with him to let him ride on its head. The ox was kind and strong, and agreed that they would swim across together. The rat travelled safely across the river on the ox’s back, but, just before they reached the other side, climbed over the ox's head, jumped onto land, and reached the finish line first. The rat had proved its cunning, and the Jade Emperor named the first year after the rat and the second year after the ox.

Happy New Chinese Year