The nex year started on February 7th but today in Chian town in the 13th arrondisement they are having the parage of the Dragon. I walk through this arrondisement on my way to work and for the last few days it has been carpeted with remainders of firecrackers. I hope to get over to the parade.
This year is the year fo the rat.
to quote from 123chinesenewyear.com the rat:
Tradition says that Lord Buddha had called for all the animals to come to him before he departed from the earth. When the cat got to know about the news, he told rat about it and the two animals decided to go together the next day. However, the next morning the rat did not wake up the cat. Therefore, the cat could not make it to the gathering on time and did not get a year. This is why there is no year of the cat and this is one of the reasons why cats hate rats.
The rat made it first to the assembly and received the first year. Though the rat did a lot of trickery to reach first to the congregation. At first he tricked the ox to let him ride on its head. The ox agreed and they went together. Just when they were about to reach to the assembly the clever rat jumped off the ox's head and got through the finish line first. This is why the year of the rat is the first year in the cycle and the year of the ox is the second.
This is probably the reason why the first of the twelve years is the Year of the Rat then followed by the year of Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
But only twelve animals came to offer Lord Buddha farewell and as a token of appreciation he named a year after each of the twelve animals in the order they arrived. In this way each year got linked with an animal. People born in that year are believed to share different traits.