Ringing in the new

The Year of the Rat got off to an early start Jan. 11, when the Postal Service launched its latest Lunar New Year stamp series in Monterey Park, CA.

Lunar New Year is an important holiday for many Asian communities, including people of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Malaysian and Filipino heritage. More than 20 percent of the world’s population celebrates the holiday, according to some estimates.

The lunar calendar operates on a 12-year cycle, with each year assigned a different zodiac animal. The Year of the Rat begins Jan. 25 and ends Feb. 11, 2021.

“As you add this stamp to your collection or use it to mail your Lunar New Year greetings, it is our sincere hope that the Year of the Rat brings everyone prosperity, peace, good luck and much joy,” said Luke Grossmann, the Postal Service’s planning and strategy senior vice president and one of the speakers at the stamp dedication ceremony.

The event was part of an annual Lunar New Year festival in Monterey Park, a city of about 60,000 residents near Los Angeles.

Other speakers included U.S. Rep. Judy Chu and state Sen. Susan Rubio, who each represent the area; and Monterey Park Mayor Hans Liang, who served as master of ceremonies.

In addition to the speakers’ remarks, the ceremony highlights included a dragon dance, a hallmark of Lunar New Year parades, and an area where attendees could purchase stamps and related merchandise.

The Year of the Rat stamp, which evokes the rat masks used in Lunar New Year dragon dances, is available in panes of 20 at Post Offices and usps.com.

The Postal Service’s two previous Lunar New Year stamp series ran from 1992-2004 and 2008-2019.

Chu predicted the stamp will help more people learn about Lunar New Year and the contributions of Asian Americans.

“Having a stamp is important,” she said. “It’s a way for the entire nation to recognize the community.”