Mobile Menu

Has the Year of the Rat brought the plague with it?

By Lizzie Atkinson

Lunar New Year, a Chinese festive celebration usually filled with wishes of happiness, prosperity and good luck, has turned to a celebration occupied with worry, sadness and concern since the Coronavirus outbreak.

Using Relative Insight text analysis, I thought it would be interesting to see how the conversation on Twitter around Lunar New Year has changed in the UK over the past four years. From political humour to deadly epidemics, we found much more than Britain’s adoration for Chinese takeaways at Lunar New Year…


Business Insider estimated that three billion trips around Lunar New Year were impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak, with limited travel in and out of mainland China. From this, I found people were 20x more likely to speak about flying and aircraft in 2020 compared to the past three years.

With so many trips impacted, millions of families were separated over the celebration, causing many to be homesick and missing family. We saw that tweets were 2.2x more likely to emote sadness over the Lunar New Year in 2020 compared to previous years.

Disease was understandably mentioned more in 2020 than any other years, and as it is the Year of the Rat (2020) the word plague was mentioned infinitely more in 2020 than the past three years…

If you know someone who was unable to celebrate the Lunar New Year with their family, try and make their day a little more special by sending a nice message or gift!


In 2019, zodiac animals were not the main star of the show as they were compared to 2017 and 2018, in tweets.

Instead, conversation was 1.9x more likely to refer to teaching people and learning more about how to celebrate Lunar New Year and Asian culture in general. With the world becoming more interconnected, it is nice for our younger generation to learn more about other cultures and celebrations.


In the UK, 26% of the population owns a dog, so perhaps unsurprisingly the year of the dog was one year that really got us talking about it.

However, the Lunar New Year this year also sparked a lot of anger, with some using this celebration to protest against China’s stance on welfare against dogs. The Year of the Dog led to violence and anger being 2.3x more likely to appear in UK tweets compared to other years. #dontmesswithdogs #respectmansbestfriend


The Year of the Rooster gave a perfect excuse for people to make cock jokes specifically aimed at President Trump, and many people used the word ‘cock’ 26.5x more often in 2017 compared to the other years discussed. This just goes to show British humour at its most quintessential.

Find out more