Rats on Letters as Post Office Marks Lunar New Year With Stamp

(Bloomberg) -- Licking a toad can have a hallucinogenic effect, but U.S. letter writers and birthday card senders will soon be able to lick a rat to get their mail on its way.

The U.S. Postal Service on Saturday issued its latest Forever stamp, with the image of a rat mask to mark the beginning of the Year of the Rat in many Asian communities. The stamp was dedicated in a ceremonies at the Monterey Park Lunar New Year Festival in California.

“For more than 100 years, we have issued stamps that celebrate the cultures of people who have come from around the world, reflecting the rich and multi-faceted heritage of America,” said Luke Grossmann, U.S. Postal Service senior vice president. “Ours is truly a world culture, and our stamps allow us to weave together the unique threads of our national tapestry.”

The stamp, which is predominately blue, features a design with elements of symbolic meaning, according to the postal service. Patterns were created in the style of Asian textiles, and a circle in the center of the rat’s head represents the new moon -- start of Lunar New Year.

The rat is the first of the 12 zodiac animal signs associated with the Chinese lunar calendar. 2020 is a special year, too, since it’s the Year of the Gold Rat for the first time since 1960. Other rodents in the rotation are the earth rat, the fire rat, the wood rat and the water rat.

It’s believed that people have different characters and destinies according to both their both year’s sign and its element. Well-known Gold Rats include U2 frontman Bono and actor Hugh Grant, both born in 1960, and Elizabeth the Queen Mother, born in 1900.

The new stamp, part of the Forever series, will always be equal in value to the price for sending a one-ounce first-class letter. It’s the first stamp in the postal service’s third Lunar New Year series, which ran from 1992 to 2005 and from 2008 to 2019.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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