Hong Kong Celebrates Year of the Rat

The Year of the Rat is upon us.

Year of Rat

We are about to welcome in the Chinese New Year and this will be the Year of the Rat. In Chinese culture there is a different calendar to the January to December one that you may be used to. The Chinese lunar calendar is a little more complex and consists twelve signs of the zodiac, represented by a different animals, one for each year on a twelve year cycle. The calendar is connected to the moon (hence the alternative name of Lunar New Year and Lunar Calendar), meaning that the start date of the Lunar New Year fluctuates from year to year. However, you then need to consider the five elements, which are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The 12 years and 5 elements make up a 60 year cycle.

The years, 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948 and 1936 are all year of the Rat. However, you need to check carefully if your birthday is in January or February to see whether you are a rat or rather a pig.

Year of the Rat is interchangeably referred to as Year of the Mouse. Decorations this year include both rats and mice, the mice often depicted by Mickey or Minnie. A nice marketing opportunity for Disney.

The Twelve Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac are the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit and the Dragon. Next come the Snake, the Horse, the Goat (also referred to as the Sheep or the Ram) and the Monkey. Finally, we have the Rooster (also referred to as the Chicken), the Dog and the Pig.


Why is the Rat the First Animal in the Zodiac?

Legend has it that the rat won the zodiac race commanded by the Jade Emperor. The Emperor declared that the race would determine which 12 animals would make up the Chinese Zodiac. As the winner, the rat is therefore the prestigious first animal in the zodiac calendar.Year of the Rat decoration for Chinese New Year

Characteristics of the Rat

The rat won perhaps a little unfairly. Legend tells, that the clever rat hitched a ride across a river on the back of the trusty Ox. As they neared the finish line, the rat jumped from the Ox’s back, thus crossing the finish line in pole position, ahead of the Ox. As a result the ox came second and so the rat is thought of as being cunning or clever. Which depending on how you spin it could be either a positive or a negative trait.

The legend goes further and tells us that the cat came 13th in the race and so just missed out on a place in the zodiac. This is sometimes said to be why cats chase mice and rats.

Is Year of the Rat your lucky year?

Generally if it’s the year of your zodiac animal, it’s believed that it will not be your best year. Sorry Rats, better luck next year. The Rabbits, Sheep, Roosters will share you gloomy outlook.

It’s supposed to be a reasonable year for the Tigers, Snakes, Horses, Dogs and Pigs,

Meanwhile, if you are a Dragon, Monkey or Ox, the forecast is bright.

Love Rat

According to Chinese horoscopes, the Rat is usually best paired with the Ox, the Dragon or the Monkey.

red lanterns hanging above street

You are said to be least compatible with the Horse, the Rooster and the Sheep.

Hong Kong’s Chinese New Year Hot Spots

Flower Markets

Chinese New Year is both the best and worst time to visit Hong Kong’s flower markets. The markets are at their bustling best, but are also insanely busy. Be prepared to shuffle along the pavement, ducking and diving blooms and branches. On Hong Kong Island, Victoria Park will be crammed with flower stalls, but our favourite flower market is the permanent one in Mongkok, which expands to accommodate more flowers and shoppers.


Temples are at their brightest and busiest. We suggest a visit to Wong Tai Sin Temple. You can also see the twelve statues representing the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. If you join us on a tour, we can tell you the rest of the Zodiac story.

best 5 hour tour couple visit wong tai sin temple Hong kong

Lion Dance

Look out for a traditional Lion Dance around the city. Pairs of performers work together wearing a Lion costume and dance daringly on raised poles.

Lion Dance


How to Discover your Chinese Zodiac Animal

If you want to find out whether you were born in the year of the rat or which zodiac sign you are, check this zodiac calculator. It’s easy to make an error if you birthday falls late January to early February.

Visit Hong Kong

If you’d like to explore Hong Kong, please get in touch with us. We offer private walking and cars tours or can cater to larger groups for corporate visits or school outings. Our licensed tour guides are friendly, knowledgeable and fluent English speakers. Let us show you the best of our city.

Wishing you a happy and prosperous Year of the Rat.

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