According to Chinese Zodiac, the Year of 2008 is a Year of the Rat which begins on February 7, 2008 and ends on January 25, 2009. The Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) does not begin on 1st of January, but on a date that corresponds with the second New Moon after the winter equinox, so it varies from year to year.
The years progress in cycles of 12 and each year is represented by an animal. The Year of the Rat is the first one in the 12-year cycle. The cycle of 12 repeats five times to form a large cycle of 60 years, and in each of the 12-year cycles, the animals are ascribed an element (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, or Water) with Yin or Yang characteristics, which determines their characters. The 60 years' circle is also called the Stem-Branch system. This New Year is the year of Wu Zi and 2008 is the 9th year in the current 60-year cycle.
The Chinese calendar has been in continuous use for centuries, which predates the International Calendar (based on the Gregorian Calendar) we use at the present day which goes back only some 425 years. The calendar measures time, from short durations of minutes and hours, to intervals of time measured in months, years, and centuries, entirely based on the astronomical observations of the movement of the sun, moon, and stars.
Years of the Rat
02/5/1924-01/23/1925, 01/24/1936-02/10/1937, 2/10/1948-01/28/1949, 01/28/1960-02/14/1961, 02/15/1972-02/02/1973, 02/02/1984-02/19/1985, 02/19/1996-02/06/1997, 02/07/2008-01/25/2009, 01/25/2020-02/11/2021
The oldest and most important festival in China is the Chinese New Year, which marks the first day of the lunar calendar and usually falls somewhere between late January and early February of the Gregorian calendar.
Like all Chinese traditional festivals, the date of the New Year is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar, which is divided into 12 months, each with about 29.5 days. One year has 24 solar terms in accordance with the changes of nature, stipulating the proper time for planting and harvesting. The first day of the first solar term is the Beginning of Spring, which cannot always fall on the first day of the year as in the Western Gregorian Calendar.
Besides celebrating the earth coming back to life and the start of plowing and sowing, this traditional festival is also a festival of reunions. No matter how far people are from their homes they will try their best to come back home for the reunion dinner.
Although the climax of the Spring Festival usually lasts three to five days, including New Year's Eve, the New Year season extends from the Laba Festival (mid-12th month) of the previous year to the Lantern Festival (middle of the first month of the lunar new year). The Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year season and life becomes routine again.
(China.org.cn January 22, 2008)