07 September 2017 by Britta Bielenberg
“Quick-witted, resourceful, smart and lovely” - personality traits to die for, right? Well, maybe not die in the literal sense. But I would be extremely happy if I could “rely” on awesome characteristics and all it took was to be born in the right year! Some zodiac animals of the Chinese lunar calendar are said to pass on physical strength, others stand for wisdom or kindness. What fun to discover what we are all “made of” I thought one night as I took off for my friend's house shortly after joining the Snowflake Books team. They publish the most beautifully illustrated bilingual books which teach about old Chinese traditions such as the lunar year and zodiac signs, and I arrived at my friend's house with a complete set of 12 books - between all the adults and children I wanted to check which birth year and corresponding signs we all were.
My friend quickly caught the bug. Excitedly she grabbed her phone when her 9 year old daughter Lexi demanded to find out next what animal she was. “We soon find out”, my friend grinned and typed 2008 into the search engine. I went over to my bag in preparation to hand over Lexi's pressie: I knew that she was born in the year of the Mouse, the one out of all the animals who despite her size would eventually win the Emperor's race and after whom the first year would be named as a reward. No wonder people who are born in the Mouse-years are assumed to be witty and smart - I was so pleased for my little friend and couldn't wait to see her reaction when she would find out.
While searching through my bag in order to find the right book for Lexi a thought was forming in my head: “she would love to know she is a lovely little Mouse”, but a scream cut through the room and I was stopped in my tracks. “What's up”, I asked in astonishment as I watched Lexi stomping out of the room, sobbing. “Lexi, what's the matter?”, I tried again. The girl's shoulders were slouching downwards and it was obvious that she had lost all interest in connecting with her zodiac animal. As she left the room, she turned slowly towards me, swallowing her tears and uttered quietly: “Mummy said that I was born in the Year of the Rat.”
It was a bit too late for me to tell them that the Chinese characters often don't correspond exactly with our translations of the animals.