Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year works according to a lunar calendar - like Easter - and so comes at different dates. In 2020, the year of the Metal Rat arrives on 25th January, and the celebrations around London Chinatown will be on Sunday 26th - look out for our London Director, Mr Jon Alagoa, leading his team in one of the always popular demos during the celebrations. Find them on the stage outside the Garrick Theatre on Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0HH, at 12.25 p.m. and again at 1.22 p.m. on Sunday. Both demos will be around twenty minutes long.

Each year has one of twelve different animals as its symbol, and the first in the cycle is the Rat, so we are back to the beginning. There's a myth that the Jade Emperor invited animals to a party, saying that the order of the zodiac would be decided by the order in which they arrived. The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a lift, and just before they got there he jumped down and ran in first. The Rat is also said to represent productivity and prosperity, mostly because of its ability to reproduce!

Being first, the year of the Rat is a year of new beginnings. That is particularly interesting in 2020, because each year is also associated with one of the five Chinese elements, and this year it is the element metal. Now with twelve animals and five elements, the year of the Metal Rat comes round only once every sixty years. That is particulary important because metal is said to be the first element, and it is also a sign of new beginnings.

So this year will be a year of new beginnings, and an auspicious time to start and grow things. Always a word of warning, though: don't go rushing headlong into things, because they still need to be well planned and prepared.