It is Chinese new year today! And this year is the Rat Year. Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. Legend also has that originally both cat and rat were carried by the ox to cross the river in order to meet Buddha. In the middle of the river, the rat pushed the cat into the river. The ox did not notice what happened and just carried the rat cross the river. Once they crossed the river, rat ran off the back of the ox and became the first animal chosen in the 12 animal year. And ox became the second one. The poor cat could not swim and almost drowned. Once it struggled to the other side of the river bank and got to meet Buddha, all 12 spots had already been taken. From that day, cats don't like the water and they hate rats/mouse so much and want to eat them. Those born in rat years tend to be leaders, pioneers, and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking. If you were born in 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936, this is your ratty year!
Back home, people wear red clothes, decorate with poems on red paper. Red symbolizes fire, which according to legend can drive away bad luck. My favorite thing during my childhood was to receive "lucky money" in red envelopes. Since we did not have Christmas gifts, the "lucky money" was the biggest thing for kids for the whole year. And Chinese new year was the only time that we could eat all the candies and food we wanted. And there are the firecrackers. Every household sets off the firecrackers on the New year Eve midnight. It is rooted in a similar ancient custom. Long ago, people in China lit bamboo stalks, believing that the crackling flames would frighten evil spirits. None of those really happen here and this year we have to shuffle all the 14" snow to celebrate the Chinese new year.