News and Events

News and Events at NewToBC

Library and Settlement News

Year of the Cat: Vietnamese Canadians want their zodiac recognized this Lunar New Year

Posted on: January 23, 2023

By CBC News 

Vancouver mom Kim Phan Nguyễn-Stone says she’s excited about marking the Lunar New Year with her family starting this Sunday, but she has been dismayed by the red-and-gold decorations on the streets ushering in the Year of the Rabbit.

“[This] is very much a Chinese expression of Lunar New Year,” she said. “Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits, but no cats — it feels a little bit like we’ve been forgotten.”

Nguyễn-Stone is one of the many Vietnamese Canadians who will celebrate the arrival of Tết Quý Mão (Year of the Cat), but feel that the Lunar New Year’s celebration of diversity doesn’t extend to the Vietnamese calendar.

Like the Chinese, the Vietnamese lunar calendar runs on a 12-year cycle, with each year corresponding to a zodiac animal. 

But the two cultures have developed slightly different lineups of astrological signs. While the Chinese have the ox as the second sign and the rabbit as the fourth, the Vietnamese have the water buffalo and the cat instead.

There are numerous folk theories as to why the Vietnamese calendar has a cat instead of a rabbit. According to University of Tennessee religious studies professor Megan Bryson, one explanation is the Chinese astrological term for rabbit, mǎo (卯), was misinterpreted as mèo (“cat” in Vietnamese) when ancient Vietnam adapted the Chinese zodiac.

Latest census data shows that the number of people of Vietnamese ancestry grew 14.5 per cent across Canada from 2016 to 2021, a higher rate than people who identify their ethnic origin as Chinese (–3 per cent) or Korean (9.8 per cent), another Asian community that commemorates the Year of the Rabbit.

Read more