2023 is the year of the rabbit… or is it the year of the cat?
If you are familiar with the Chinese zodiac calendar, or at the very least had a colorful children’s book read to you about how the calendar came to be (as I did), you will know that the rabbit is the only animal with a shared year.
Allow me to elaborate.
According to the story, when 12 animals were invited to a race by the Jade Emperor, the rat and cat teamed up. They cheated their way to the top by riding on the backs of other animals, only for the rat to push the cat off into the water at the last second, securing victory for the rat.
According to Vietnamese lore however (and my dear Vietnamese mother), the cat still completed the race and made its way to the finish line and therefore was rewarded with a place on the calendar. While in Chinese tradition, it is the rabbit who claims fourth place while the cat is forgotten by all except in Vietnam.
Now, if you look up why this is, beyond the obviously very real myths and stories surrounding this race, the internet says that the cat was more relatable for the Vietnamese and the rabbit more so for the Chinese. No matter the reason, I cannot help but think it is intriguing that the calendar only differs on this particular animal between the two cultures.
For the sake of over thinking things and setting new year resolutions, I invite all to make this promise to themselves: beginning this year, let’s be okay with stories that differ from our own.
With so many of us thinking we can only befriend those who think alike, it is important to remember diversity in perspective is important. Embrace the contrarian ideas that want to voice themselves in your head. Say them out loud. Say them respectfully, and I promise that the world will not implode.
If a rabbit and cat can coexist for thousands of years, representing two very different cultures, then opposing ideas from you and a friend can exist too.
Take this year and have those hard conversations, it will be worth it in the end.
Happy year of the cat!
Elisabeth Dellit is a 10th Grader at Jesuit High School. She enjoys reading, writing creative stories, baking/cooking and participating in her school’s drama program.