The "Rat" is the first sign of the Chinese zodiac.
Legend has it that the Jade Emperor invited the animals for a party. The first 12 to arrive was the Rat, followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and lastly, the Pig. All the animals were named after the 12-year cycle that governs Chinese life thereafter.
Various versions of the Rat's story are particularly revealing about his character.
One version has it that, towards the end of the journey, the animals had to cross a celestial river, and the Rat asked the Ox to ferry him across. When they arrived on the other side, the Rat jumped down off the Ox's head and that's how gained first spot in the order of the Chinese zodiac.
Those born in the "Year of the Rat" are clever, ambitious, creative, hard-working, fastidious, charming and sociable, but can be a bit stingy when it comes to sharing their wealth or possessions.
Rats are compatible with Dragons, Monkeys and Oxen, but should avoid Horses at all costs.
In the "Year of the Rat", we can expect 12 months of plentiful opportunities and prospects not to mention being relatively free of turbulence, (which is great to know especially if you're planning on making some long-term investments, starting new projects, or keeping the home fires burning brightly).
It's also a rather fine time to socialise and grab a sumptuous meal or two with friends and family!