Why Vietnam Celebrates the Year of the Cat Not the

Why Vietnam Celebrates the Year of the Cat, Not the Rabbit

Hanoi —

As China prepares to welcome the Year of the Rabbit, the Lunar New Year looks a little different in Vietnam, where the Year of the Cat is about to begin.

Across the country, streets are lined with statues of cats and shops are packed with cat-themed decorations, popular gifts during the Vietnamese New Year, known as Tet.

Vietnam and neighboring China share 10 of the 12 signs of the zodiac calendar – the rat, tiger, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

But the Vietnamese honor the cat over the rabbit and the buffalo over the ox.

There are many theories as to why the Vietnamese chose the cat.

Nguyen Hieu Tin, an expert on traditional Vietnamese culture, said the answer may lie in the paddy fields, which are prized by farmers.

“Rice is a big part of Vietnamese agriculture but with the threat of many rats in the fields, the cats [that hunt them] are a favorite animal of the Vietnamese,” he told AFP.

“Another explanation is that the Vietnamese do not want to observe two years with a similar animal. They see the mouse and the rabbit as closely related,” Tin said.

There is also a theory that the Vietnamese have made their own interpretation of the Chinese word for rabbit, “mao”. In Vietnamese, this sounds like “meo” which means cat.

The Year of the Cat is believed to bring luck and smooth sailing in Vietnam.

Hoang Thi Huong Giang, an office worker in Hanoi, a city teeming with traditional orange kumquat trees and pink flowers off Tet, said she’s never paid attention to the reasons why the Vietnamese honor a different zodiac sign than the rest of the world.

But she believes those born in the Year of the Cat like her have it easier than most.

“It seems true that those born in the year of the cat are often more active, hard-working and sociable,” Giang said proudly.