EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Happy Year of the Rat!  The Mid-Jersey Chinese School, which has held classes in language and culture for many years at Churchill Junior High School here in East Brunswick for many years, celebrated in style yesterday with a program featuring encomiums, performances, and traditional style.

"The Rat is the first of all zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived at the finish line, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox, becoming first.

The Rat is also associated with the Earthly Branch (地支—dì zhī) Zi (子) and the midnight hours. In the terms of yin and yang (阴阳—yīn yáng), the Rat is yang and represents the beginning of a new day.

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In Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of wealth and surplus. Because of their reproduction rate, married couples also prayed to them for children," according to a cultural resource.

Emcees Brian Roun and Emily Chu greeted East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen who acknowledged that the Year of the Rat is the beginning of a new twelve-year cycle in the Chinese calendar, in the same way that 2020 begins a new decade in the Western calendar.  Cohen advised the group to use good judgment and caution in the new cycle and decade.

Cohen was followed by Assemblywoman Nancy J. Pinkin, of East Brunswick, who reminded those present to participate in the upcoming national census so that all voices are counted and heard.

East Brunswick Board of Education President Vicki Becker was joined by her colleagues Liwu Hong and Susanna Chiu, showing the support of the publis schools for the Chinese community.

Lin Weitung, an official from Taiwan, also greeted the group and got the celebration on its way.

After that, it was all Chinese lions, music,and song. Performances even included a show of skill in Chinese yoyo - Western style - to Little Nas X's contemporary hit "Old Town Road."

There was variety and tradition included in performances by students from the Chinese classes in music, Zumba, martial arts and dance.

Vincent Yang, MJCS Board Chairperson, closed the popular annual event, extending good wishes to the many parents and students in attendance.