(CNN) — Here’s a look at the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated in many countries in Asia. It is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese lunisolar calendar.
February 16, 2018 – The year 4716 begins. It marks the first day of the New Year on the Chinese calendar. 2018 is the year of the Dog.
The Lunar New Year is celebrated during the second new moon after the winter solstice, usually between January 21 and February 20 on the Gregorian calendar.
Lunar New Year festivities begin on the first day of the first lunar month on the Chinese calendar and continue until the 15th of the lunar month, when the moon is full.
Chinese legend holds that Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on New Year’s Day and named a year after each of the twelve animals that came.
The animals in the Chinese calendar are the dog, pig/boar, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, and rooster.
Also, according to legend, people born in each animal’s year have some of that animal’s personality traits.
Each day of the fifteen day celebration has its own traditions, such as visiting in-laws or staying home to welcome good fortune.
Families gather together for meals, especially for a feast on New Year’s Eve.
Another tradition includes giving cash in a red envelope, called a “hongbao,” to children and single adults. In recent years, the gift-giving has gone digital.
Fireworks displays during Lunar New Year stem from a custom of lighting bamboo stalks on fire to ward off evil spirits.
Lunar New Year ends with the lantern festival, celebrated at night with displays and parades of painted lanterns.
The highlight of the Lantern Festival is the Dragon Dance. Beautiful dragons made of paper, silk and bamboo are held overhead, and appear to dance as they make their way along the parade routes.
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