2020: A Leap Year and Year of the Rat

For some this might be the darkest, coldest, and longest time of the year. The months of January and February seem to drag on and on for what seems like a decade (see what I did there? because we just jumped head first into a new decade). With this year feeling even longer seeing as it is a leap year. Yep, that’s right February has 29 days! Woohoo!!! However, leap years are very interesting and important. They occur every four years to allow the calendar year to synchronize with the solar year (the time frame it takes the earth to go around the sun). 

The whole idea of a leap year is quite obscure, but extremely necessary to keep everything in the universe aligned. We in North America use the Gregorian calendar, which is the standard calendar for the entire world. As everyone already knows a regular year is 365 days but, in reality, it takes the earth exactly 365 and ¼ days to orbit the sun! So, instead of adding 0.00068 seconds (1/4 day = 6 hours / 365 days = 0.00068) to each of our days the quarters were added up and the leap year was created. 

Every four years one day is added to compensate for the extra time it takes the earth to complete its orbit. However, it cannot just be that simple. So, here’s the catch, centuries are unable to be leap years unless, yes there is an unless, they are divisible by 400. For example, 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but 1600 and 2000 were leap years. Other than that one exception the every four year rule is reliable. We know this year (2020) is a leap year so let’s check the math: 2020 / 4 = 505. The quotient is a whole number, so, that’s the truth it is a leap year! 

Like everything else in the world, there is never only one way of doing things. On top of the Gregorian Calendar there is also a Lunar Calendar. To distinguish a clear difference the Gregorian Calendar follows the cycles of a solar year and the lunar calendar, just as it sounds, follows the cycles of the moon. The Lunar Calendar is followed in many “old world” traditions to determine the dates of religious and national holidays. For example, the lunar calendar is used in Chinese tradition. Today, many people still calculate their age using the lunar calendar (seeing as it is a full 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar) giving them two very different ages! So, does that mean you can have two birthdays? Yes, please. 

This year Chinese New Year, which is determined by the lunar calendar, is January 25, 2020. Chinese New Year is full of different traditions with symbolic meanings predicting your fortunes for the future. One of the most popular traditions are the zodiac animals. There is a total of twelve different Chinese zodiac animals that are each assigned to represent a year and this year it is the Rat. 

Just thinking of the physical appearance of a rat you may cringe, but wait its fortunes are far from cringe worthy! In Chinese mythology the rat was the first of the zodiac animals to arrive at the emperor’s party. It is said that the rat convinced the ox to give him a ride, but upon arrival the rat jumped off the ox and ran ahead making him the first to arrive. Rats represent the beginning of a new day and are a sign of wealth. They are also clever, successful, and happy to live a quiet and peaceful life. It is said babies born in the year of the rat are energetic, optimistic, and likeable. If you think this describes you the recent years of the rat are as follows: 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, and 2020. That makes me a rat!  

At first you may think, “well, if I was born in year of the rat, then any year of the rat is lucky for me”. However, it is the opposite. If you are a “rat baby” the years of the rat are unfortunately unlucky for you. The only defense possible to be employed is the colour red. 

It all started with the legend of Nian. Nian was a ferocious beast that had the head of a lion and the body of a bull. He would terrorize the villagers by eating their livestock, crops, and even their children, but he was afraid of only three things: fire, noise, and the colour red. One day Nian was defeated and from that day on the weapon was considered to bring luck and good fortune to all. That weapon was the colour red! 

Now to deter the evil demons, and bad luck, from coming too close red lanterns are hung outside homes. Cleverly enough people wanting to deter the unluckiness will commit to wearing only red underwear for the duration of the entire year. 

Chinese New Year celebrations are filled with beautiful dancing dragons (who actually embody Nian), red envelopes of money, fireworks, family, tradition, and more. Approximately more than 20%, to help conceptualize that is about every one in five people, of the worlds population celebrate Chinese New Year. That explains why it is also called the spring migration since everyone is traveling home to be with their family. 

If you are looking to ring in the Chinese New Year it is suggested to check your local china town or newspaper for celebrations around you! Just think if you lived in China this celebration grants you five to sixteen work free days!!! Wow!

Gong hei fat choy! 

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