The Chinese New Year animal 2020 is the rat - but how is it decided, and what does it mean?

The Year of the Rat is just one of 12 animals that come around on a zodiacal cycle. With the new cycle starting this year, we've returned to the first Chinese New Year animal for 2020, the rat, which last had its moment in the spotlight in 2008. It'll be 2032 before it returns again.

Although Chinese New Year 2020 is on Saturday January 25, Durham will celebrate with a series of events the following weekend, on Saturday February 1. You can read about what's on in our Chinese New Year Durham events story. Also, don't forget to watch the highlight of the events, the Chinese New Year lion dance in Durham.

How come the 2020 Chinese New Year animal is the rat?

2019 was the Year of the Pig because it is the last of the 12 zodiac signs, so 2020 marks the start of a new cycle and begins again with the first animal, the rat. The story goes that the Jade Emperor decided the cycle by what order the animals turned up to his party. The rat asked the ox to give him a ride, but as they arrived at the party, the rat jumped down and landed ahead of the ox, becoming first. Sneaky.

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The Pig turned up last because it overslept. Another less recriminatory story has it that the pig's house was attacked by a wolf; and obviously, house rebuilding took precedence over parties. The other 10 animals are the tiger, rabbit, goat, snake, monkey, ox, dog, rooster, goat and horse.

Chinese New Year animals work on a 12-year cycle then?

Actually no - it's a 60 year cycle because each year the animal is paired with one of five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. 2020 is metal. The rat-metal combination was last seen in 1960, and people born in these years are meant to be reliable and live a stable life. They may hold some power and are able to turn unlucky events into fortune.

People born in the Year of the Rat generally are said to be clever, quick thinkers. They are successful, but content with living a quiet and peaceful life.

Anything else I need to know if I'm a rat?

Your best pairings are with an ox, dragon or monkey. Your lucky colours are blue, gold and green, and your lucky numbers are 2 and 3.

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