The Lunar New Year is probably one of the most important Chinese festivals each year as it marks the coming spring. This year, the New Year falls on February 10th. The Lunar New Year is surrounded by age-old myths and folklore. One of the most popular is the legend of the Chinese Zodiac. Chinese astrology follows a cycle of twelve animals. Each represent the Zodiac signs for their respective lunar year, with 2013 being the year of the snake.
According to legend, the Jade Emperor invited all of the animals to participate in a race across the river. The winners would earn the twelve coveted seats in the Chinese Zodiac.
The rat and the cat were clever enough to hitch a ride on the strongest swimmer – the ox. Just before it reached the shore, the rat pushed the cat into the river and jumped off the back of the buffalo and across the finish line, making it the first animal to earn a seat in the Zodiac. The ox then took second.
In third place came the tiger, which was no surprise. But in fourth and fifth place, and nearly tied, came the rabbit followed the dragon. It is said that the dragon, who could have easily won, chose to help the rabbit across the river instead, thus claiming a later place on the calendar.
Behind the dragon, the horse could be seen approaching the shore. But just as he was about to climb out of the water a snake slithered off the horse’s hoof. Resulting in the sixth position going to the snake and the seventh to the horse.
The goat, monkey and rooster helped one another across the river on a raft and arrived at the same time. The Jade Emperor was impressed with their resourcefulness and each received a place on the Chinese Zodiac calendar. In eleventh place was the dog, who’s arrival was delayed because he enjoyed playing in the water. After a break for a meal and a nap, the pig crossed the line and claimed the calendar’s final seat.
And now you know how the animals secured a place on the Chinese Calendar! Oh and the cat? It crossed the river in the 13th position, thus missing out in the competition. The cat blamed its misfortune on the rat and they haven’t been friends since!