Happy Lunar New Year

Today ushers in 4705, and the Year of the Rat, the first sign in the Asian Zodiac. Unlike the Western world, which associates rats with filth and disease, in Chinese culture they are traditional symbols of incoming wealth and prosperity. But other than the good fortune and wealth associated with the Year of the Rat, 2008 is considered to be a very lucky, reports The Wall Street Journal. For many Chinese and Chinese Americans, the No. 8 is lucky because its phonetic pronunciation in some Chinese dialects is very similar to the Chinese word for prosperity or wealth. They look forward to Aug. 8, 2008 (8-8-08). Chinese officials chose that date to begin The Beijing Olympics. Three number eights in a row is considered luckier and even more auspicious because the number three is viewed as a road, route or pathway. And what better way to get to riches and prosperity faster than to have a direct route? People born in the Year of the Rat (1948, 1960, 1972, 1984 and 1996) are said to be smart, crafty, good with other people, empathetic, a bit shrewd, entertaining and big on parties. Everyone can ring in the Lunar New Year by eating lucky foods, reports The Chicago Tribune's Monica Eng. Those include black hair fungus fa cai, fish, oranges and half moon- shaped dumplings. Eng also advises wearing red underwear all year to protect you. In the event you'd like wish your friends a Happy New Year in Asian, it is Gong xi fa cai (Mandarin), Gung hay fat choi (Cantonese), hay boke-mahn he pah du say oh (Korean) or huc mung nam moi, pronounced jook mung nu moy (Vietnamese).