Year of the Rat begins as Chinese celebrate in style

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CHINESE New Year celebrations were today being celebrated with a bang.

Hong Kong restaurant, in York Place, will treat customers to a lion dance and fire crackers, while schools across Scarborough are teaching pupils the centuries-old culture by making masks, lanterns and chinese food.

The year 2008 is the 4705th year in the Chinese calendar and is the Year of the Brown Rat.

Considered a lucky creature, the Year of the Rat is seen as a prime time for self-renewal, hard work and new opportunities. Those born in the Year of the Rat characteristically adapt themselves to the situation at hand, have the ability to cope with difficulties and are at their best during a crisis.

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays and normally begins on the first day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar lasting for 15 days. The New Year celebration starts today and ends on February 22.

Owner of Hong Kong, Simon Wong, said: "This evening we are having a party in the restaurant and we will be doing the lion dance and having fire crackers. Friends and customers will be able to join in with the celebrations."

He said the beginning of the year was particularly special for the Chinese and festivities welcomed a healthy, wealthy and prosperous year for all.

Mr Wong, who has run the Chinese restaurant in York Place for 16 years, is originally from Hong Kong.

The Year of The Rat

A story for children tells of why the rat is number one in the calendar of 12 animals.

Once the God of Heaven wanted to choose 12 animal names as the sequence of the calendar. He announced an animal race to determine the order. When the racing date was closing, Cat forgot the time and asked Rat the schedule. Alert Rat gave Cat the wrong time on purpose. Smart Rat stayed on the horn of Ox while crossing the river, then jumped over the bank to reach the final line to become champion. Cat missed the race and swore to kill Rat for generations. That's why Cat will always chase Rat forever.