cat statueThis Thursday, February 19th, is the start of the Lunar New Year. Thousands of New Yorkers will flock to Chinatown this weekend to take part in the festivities. Even though it is sometimes referred to as the Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year in New York City is a multicultural festival that celebrates of the coming of spring and the rebirth of the Earth.

One of the tastiest ways to ring in the new year is to stop in your favorite restaurant in Chinatown to consume symbolic, lucky foods. Oranges and tangerines represent wealth and good fortune. Long noodles represent a long life. There are even dumplings that resemble the shape of an old-fashioned silver ingot that was once used for Chinese currency.

If you’re planning to dine in Chinatown this weekend after the parade, chances are you’ll see a little cat statue with its paw raised as you enter a restaurant. Sometimes with a motorized moving paw, the cat statue is beckoning for you to enter. If you haven’t heard of the “Maneki-neko” before, consider the lucky calico bobtail statue a sign of welcome.

The Maneki-neko often misinterpreted as waving because the Japanese gesture for “come here” is performed with the fingers curled down with the palm facing forward, much like how your cat would jiggle her paw at you.

According to a Japanese folktale, a wealthy lord was taking shelter from a powerful storm beneath a tree by a humble temple. The temple’s cat caught his eye by reaching up her paw and to call the lord to her. As soon as the lord approached the cat, lightning struck the tree. Ever grateful, the lord rewarded the poor temple with riches. Today, the Maneki-neko has been adopted by many cultures as a way to welcome customers and good fortune.

Do you have a lucky cat in your life? Show us on Instagram! We’d love to see how your cat calls good fortune to you.

Photo by Kouran, on flickr

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.