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The Year of the Rat: Everything You Need to Know

While last year was positively piggy, this year starting Jan. 25, we’re raving about the rat. Here’s everything you need to know about this resourceful rodent.

The rat won the great race — but might have cheated

Legend says the Jade Emperor held a race to determine the order of his new animal guards (as well as consequently the Chinese zodiac symbols). The rat came in first place, but might have done so by nefarious means.

One story says he tricked the trusting ox into letting him ride him across a river. When they reached the bank, the rat jumped off first, leaving the poor ox in second place. Another story says the rat and cat originally worked together to fool the ox. They both rode him across the river — until the rat shoved the cat into the water. Another version says the lazy cat asked the rat to wake him in time for the race. The duplicitous rat agreed, but then never did, making the rat and cat mortal enemies ever since.

The rat’s personality

People born the Year of the Rat are thought to be cunning, quick-witted, and resourceful. They're sharply observant, imaginative, and skillful at taking advantage of opportunities  perhaps too skillful as rats are sometimes believed to be opportunistic. They can also lack courage and be rather blunt. While thrifty and diligent, they also have a tendency to hoard (paging Marie Kondo!).

In addition to an animal, each year has a different element associated with it, and for 2020 it's the Gold Rat. Check out the attributes depending on each element.

Gold Rat (1960, 2020). Smart and talented, the gold rat can also be hot-tempered and jealous. Don’t worry though: they have high self-awareness and tend toward stable lives.

Water Rat (1972, 2032). The chatty water rat is intelligent and kind but sometimes lacks focus. But once they put their minds to something, they'll surely excel.

Wood Rat (1924, 1984). You definitely want a wood rat on your team. Not only are they independent and multitalented, they like to finish what they start.

Fire Rat (1936, 1996). The fire rat directs a kind of quiet kindness to their friends, but at the same time, they can be hard on themselves.

Earth Rat (1948, 2008). You can rely on an earth rat to tell a good story and to lift — or lower — the mood of a group. They’re also honest, modest, and friendly.

What’s up for 2020?

When your animal year comes up in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, that’s called ben ming nian. During that time, it’s believed that you’re more vulnerable to adversity — which is indeed the case for rats in 2020. Those born in a rat year may face ups and downs in both careers and relationships during the first half of the year followed by smoother prospects in the second.

To turn up the luck, it’s recommended that rats wear something red at all times, whether it’s red underwear (you read that right) or a red rope bracelet. Also keep in these lucky and unlucky elements:

Numbers. Rats will want to bet on luck numbers 2 and 3, and those containing them, like 23 and 32. They’ll want to stay away from 5 and 9.

Colors. 2020 hues for rats are blue, green, and gold. Meanwhile, yellow and brown are the ones to keep out of rat wardrobe.

Months. Rats can enjoy some good fortune in the the second, fifth, and ninth Chinese lunar months. However, in the fourth, 10th, and 12th Chinese lunar months, they might want to double up on red underwear.

Directions. West, northwest, and southwest are the directions that will be on the rat’s side this year. South and southeast are the ones to stay away from.

Famous rats

And we don’t mean Ratatouille! Check out the celebs and other notables who were born in rat years.

1924. Rats born in this year include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, actors Marlon Brando and Lauren Bacall, writers James Baldwin and Truman Capote, and U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, the first Japanese American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and the first Japanese American to serve in the U.S. Senate.

1936. Rocker Buddy Holly was a rat as was puppeteer Jim Henson, designer Yves Saint Laurent, and actors Mary Tyler Moore, Burt Reynolds, Robert Redford, and Alan Alda.

1948. This rat year yielded musicians Ozzy Osbourne and Olivia Newton-John, actor Samuel L. Jackson, his royal highness Prince Charles, designer Donna Karan, and Game of Thrones scribe George RR Martin and acclaimed children's author Laurence Yep

1960. Another gold rat year, which makes 2020 even more special for entertainer RuPaul, singer Bono, comedian Kathy Griffin, entrepreneur Tim Cook, Olympic diver and LGBT activist Greg Louganis, and actors Hugh Grant, Antonio Banderas, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, and BD Wong.

1972. This rat year stars John Cho as well as tennis great Michael Chang and hilarious comedian Bobby Lee. Other ‘72 rats include athletic greats Shaquille O’Neal and Mia Hamm; rap artists Timbaland, Common, Busta Rhymes, The Notorious B.I.G., and Eminem; and actors Dwayne Johnson, Octavia Spencer, Maya Rudolph, Wil Wheaton, Idris Elba, Toni Collette, and Alyssa Milano.

1984. Happy rat year to Daily Show host Trevor Noah, actor America Ferrera, actor/director Olivia Wilde, actor/singer Mandy Moore, singers Avril Lavigne and Katy Perry, Facebook founder Mark Zuckberg, his royal hotness Prince Harry, and basketball superstar LeBron James.

1996. Rat babies include Game of Thrones’ Sophia Turner, singer Lorde actor/singer Zendaya, and Spider-Man himself Tom Holland.

In the mood for even more about Lunar New Year? Check out our posts on 12 ways to get lucky this lunar new year, eight fortunate foods to eat, and six things you might not know about the Chinese zodiac. You can also start stocking up on Chinese New Year supplies. Finally, follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our newsletter to keep up-to-date on our upcoming line-up of festive Lunar New Year events!

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