Celebrate the Year of the Rat with Me

More than lawsuits, it is the sharing of cultures and experiences that unites us and, thereby, reduces discrimination.


The first day of Chinese New Year in this Year of the Rat falls on Saturday, January 25, 2020, and with it comes eleven days of food, festivities, fireworks, and for you, a chance to enjoy all of this while connecting with your local Chinese community, which for me is Boston, Massachusetts.  I did not consult with my wife when writing this article (I hope she doesn’t read it—it’s unlikely—she would have to visit my website), so it is from the perspective of a white guy who married an Asian immigrant: Probably full of holes and inaccuracies but slightly entertaining and hopefully encouraging in terms of getting people to try something foreign and fabulous this year.


Each year brings a new zodiac animal: There is the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.  This is the year of the Rat, the first of all zodiac animals.  According to Chinese legend, the Jade Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party (sounds like a fun guy).  The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride, and just as they arrived at the finish line, the Rat jumped down and landed ahead of the Ox, becoming first.  Rats!  Rats are smart, especially in New York City.


My favorite part of Chinese New Year is the food, which will of course depend on the local region associated with your family, host, or restaurant.  In my family, we do (you’ll see) “yu sheng,” which is very popular in Singapore (think Crazy Rich Asians) and where my wife is from, neighboring Malaysia (think better food, more jungle, and less rich—a lot lot lot less).  This is the most fun you will ever have while eating.  Yu sheng is raw fish, often cured in what seems to be a vinegar or citrus (like ceviche), and accompanied by julienned carrots, cucumber, and radish.  As for condiments there is sesame oil and maybe a plum sauce – there are definitely crushed peanuts and wonton skins and other stuff I’m not sure of (just go try it!).  Everyone gathers around a large circular table and in the middle is a large plate of yu sheng.  Then everyone yells something in Mandarin while I mumble along and we all use our chopsticks to mix the dish by tossing the ingredients up in the air as high as possible.  My understanding is that the higher you toss the yu sheng the more luck you will have in the New Year, but that could just be my wife trying to make me look foolish (or be more prosperous).  Head to Chinatown and see if you can find a restaurant that does yu sheng this Chinese New Year!


For more information about how to celebrate the Year of the Rat, visit here.


Lucas Newbill is a civil rights and employment lawyer based out of Brookline, Massachusetts, serving the Greater Boston region in discrimination cases.