The celebration of the Chinese New Year begins today. Let's usher in the Year of the Dragon by learning about the most important holiday in much of Asia.
1. The Chinese New Year – also called the spring festival – starts on the first day of the lunar calendar and continues until the first full moon, which is Feb. 15 this year.
While traditions change from country to country, many families will thoroughly clean their homes on the eve of the New Year to "sweep out" the bad luck and make room for good luck.
However, families do not clean on New Year because that sweeps away the good luck.
2. Many myths and folk tales are attached to the Chinese New Year. A popular one involves a beast called the Nian.
The Nian would appear on the first day of the year to eat crops, livestock and even children.
However, people learned that the Nian is scared of the color red. That is why many people will wear red on Chinese New Year, hang red lanterns or scrolls from their home or even paint their window frames the fortuitious color.
3. On the eve of the New Year celebration, families gather for the Reunion Dinner.
Traditional dishes depend on the country and culture, however some of the popular offerings include dumplings (which symbolize wealth,) duck, pork and fish.
However, the fish is intentionally not finished. The reason for this stems from a Chinese pun. "Fish" is a homophone for "surplus," so families always leave a little left over.
In the south of China, it is common to make a cake called Nian gao. Pieces of the sticky cake are also shared with friends and relatives.
4. Children begin the New Year by wishing their parents and elders a happy and lucky year.
In return, the elders often give the children a red envelope with money in it called a Hong Bao.
5. Today begins the Year of the Dragon. It is the only legendary animal on the Chinese Zodiac and is considered especially lucky.
The motto of a dragon is "I reign."
You can celebrate the Year of the Dragon locally with a Kwan Family Lion Dance performance at the , 5871 Mayfield Rd., Mayfield Heights. Performances are scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Feb. 5 and 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11.