2011: Chinese Year of the Rabbit

Chinese year of the Rabbit2011 is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit; the year is 4709 in the Chinese calendar. It starts on February 3rd by our calendar, which falls on the feast of Brigid in the Celtic calendar.

I told you the myth of the Chinese New Year in 2008, but it’s time to revisit! In brief, the story goes that the supreme being, the Jade Emperor, held a race among the animals to determine the mascots for the twelve-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. In the story often told, the animals cross a river.

Rat got across by trickery, of course, hitching a ride on Ox and leaping (or being flung) the last few yards. He double-crossed his friend Cat, pushing her in (or, in some versions, failing to wake her for the race), and they’ve been enemies ever since.

Strong Ox and Tiger crossed next.

Rabbit finished fourth. Clever rabbit was not a great swimmer, but by hopping from rock to rock, then hitching a ride on a log, he managed to overtake many of the animals. Some stories say that Dragon (a benevolent creature in most eastern mythologies) gave Rabbit a helping hand, or, rather, a helping breath, blowing him ashore.

This lucky Rabbit occupies an important place in Chinese astronomy as well: he’s the rabbit or hare seen by many cultures on the moon! Here’s a good picture to help you find the Moon Hare on the full moon.

The myth of Rabbit and the Chinese Zodiac is an astrology myth. Astrology is a special form of mythology that uses stories about constellations, animals, or other significant sets of things (numbers, elements) to make sense of time and us. By relating a person to the year in which he or she was born and the symbol attached to it, the ancients could find meaning and significance in things like time of birth which otherwise seemed arbitrary. Stories are all about meaning and inner truths.

If you are born in the Year of the Rabbit, the story goes, you may be introverted but a good listener, gracious, a good communicator or teacher, and, hopefully, lucky.

Recent Years of the Rabbit:

1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999

Fun Children’s Book on the Chinese Zodiac:

Ed Young's Cat and Rat
Ed Young’s Cat and Rat

This beautifully-illustrated book for about 2nd through 4th grade kids brings to life the story of the Chinese Zodiac with dramatic ink and watercolors.

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