It may have escaped most people’s attention in the West, but according to the venerable Chinese calendar this is the Year of the Metal Rabbit.
There are also Water, Wood, Fire and Earth Rabbit years,but the previous Metal Rabbit Year was way back in 1951.
Not wishing to confuse you further, but to be truly accurate it’s the Year of the Hare, of which there are seven species in China — the country has no native rabbits.
The rabbit symbolizes creativity, compassion, warmth and sensitivity.
Rabbits are friendly, outgoing and prefer the company of others; they also try to avoid conflict.
It is said to be a lucky omen for those born under the sign of the Rabbit. Recent Rabbit years have been 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987 and 1999.
I have just returned from the Far East where images of rabbits can be seen everywhere (most notably in Japan) — on greeting cards, neon signs, public banners and in newspaper cartoons.
The Year of the Rabbit is the fourth in the 12-year Chinese calendar.
Other years are named after the Rooster, Monkey and Dog; I was unfortunately born in a Rat year!
Interestingly (aside from the Tiger) there are no cat years.
According to legend, Buddha invited the animals of the forest to join him in celebration, and he named the 12 years of the calendar after the first 12 species of animal to respond.
Being haughty and somewhat independent, the first cats arrived too late to be honoured.