The Chinese calendar follows lunar and solar cycles, meaning the New Year begins with the first new moon, after the Earth has made a full revolution around the Sun.
China is by no means the only culture to prioritise the lunar calendar: much of Asia, the Middle East and the Americas have traditionally used the cycles of the moon. But China has some of the most enduring traditions, festivals and superstitions, which we'll give you a flavour of here!
The Gregorian calendar we know today follows the Earth’s 365 day revolution around the Sun. The Chinese calendar is called ‘lunisolar,’ because it draws on elements of the Earth's 365 day rotation around the sun and the moon's c.27 day orbit around the Earth.
This year, the first new moon appears on January 25th 2020, marking the end of the year of the Pig and the beginning of the year of the Rat. Because of the way the lunar cycles fall, New Year 2021 will not be until February 12th 2021, which will be the year of the Ox.
What does the year of the Rat mean?
The Rat is a better omen than you might think.
If you recall the origin story of the Chinese zodiac, you’ll probably remember the Rat as a trickster with dubious morals. The story sees each animal take part in The Great Race across a mythic river, which will determine the order of the zodiac year on year.
The Rat uses its cunning to cheat its way into the lead, sneaking on the back of the strong Ox and pushing its fellow stowaway (the Cat) overboard.
If this were a Western fable, the Rat would be due an unfortunate comeuppance.
But the Chinese laud the Rat’s intelligence, and consider the animal a symbol of success, wealth and wisdom (though people born in the year of the Rat are also said to be timid).
What's in store for you in 2020?
Chinese astrology is less about making precise predictions about the future than the Sumerian / Greek Zodiac.
Instead, it is about understanding patterns of good and bad energy, and making steps towards improving your feng shui or adjusting your behaviour according to whether you're on a lucky streak - for example, if you're on a lucky streak, you should take more risks; if you're on an unlucky streak you should work on your support structures.
Those born after January 2020 and before February 11th 2021 will take on the traits of the Rat, such as cleverness, sociability and ambition. As this year's element is Metal, they can also expect stability and reliability in life.
However, the Rat is also said to have offended Tai Sui, the star which represents the presiding god this year. This means Rats' good fortune will be interlaced with tricks and pitfalls so be wary in success.
Whether this year is lucky or unlucky for you will depend on your own zodiac animal (scroll down to the bottom if you don't know yours).
2020 will be a year of mostly good fortune for the Ox, Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Sheep, Monkeys.
An a mixed year for the Rat, Boar, Rabbit, Dog, Snake and Rooster.
Most popular Chinese Plants
You may not know that China is a big exporter of houseplants, and has some beautiful and unique varieties that are at least very closely related to some of our faves.
A long-time favourite, no collection is complete without a money plant! This one hails from China, but, biologically, it's a close relation of the nettles which grow wild in Britain.
According to Chinese feng shui, the hand-like span of the Money Tree's leaves (ie. five stem spread) capture happiness and good fortune, while the water-storing trunk is said to hold treasure.
A Bonsai tree with an other-worldly aerial root. This is the perfect Bonsai for beginners - robust, hardy and beautiful to look at. With this size trunk, the plant is over 15 years old already!