These are much cuter rats than New Yorkers are accustomed to seeing.
The year of the rat begins Saturday. Joanne Kwong of the nearly half-century old Pearl River Mart Chinese-American Department Store says in Chinese Culture, the Rat is revered and respected.
"It's a hard working animal, so people born in the year of the rat are very quick witted, clever and industrious," said Joanne Kwon, President, Pearl River Mart.
Pear River Mart's three locations are busy this time of year as folks stock up on products used in Lunar New Year Celebrations. Of course a big part of family get-togethers over the two week observance is food, and each item is symbolic of hopes for the New Year.
"You always have Mandarin Oranges. Tangerines, always with the leaves, because the leaves actually represent wealth,” said Kwon.
There are Sesame Balls which expand when you fry them, symbolizing development and growth. Noodles for long life and sweets for a sweet new year. These Red Envelopes are big sellers; they are filled with cash as gifts for the holiday.
"Kids and single people usually get the envelopes and you know they are filled with cash, so kids love the holiday because usually you get them from your elders and it's a way to pass the luck from the elders to the young people," said Kwon.
Bonus for visitors to Pearl River Mart's Tribeca location. The gallery features the work of Jerry Ma, a Chinatown Odyssey is the artist's reinterpretation of a classic Chinese tale from the 16th Century, a love letter to the Chinatown he grew up with. He has fond memories of celebrating growing up in Washington Heights and in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
"I think the first thing Asian families will think of is food, it brings family together, it's always about coming together and celebrating what's going to be happening in the next year. I think we try and look forward rather than backwards," said Artist Jerry Ma.