Five facts about the Chinese New Year

Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:08am EST
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BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Chinese people across the world welcome the lunar new year on February 3, a period also known as the Spring Festival and marked by a long holiday.

Here are five facts about the festival, its meaning and some of the traditions and superstitions surrounding it:

* This year is the year of the rabbit, according to the traditional Chinese lunar calendar.

People born in the year of the rabbit are believed to be moderate, kind, happy and have great taste, but are also cautious and somewhat mysterious with a propensity to cry.

People born in the years of 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999 and 2011 are all rabbits.

* There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, including the pig, the rat, the ox and the snake, and there are several versions of how this came to be.

In one tradition, an ancient Chinese emperor held a race to decide which animal should get the honor of being first in the zodiac. The rat won after hitching a ride on the head of the ox and jumping over the finishing line ahead of him.

* Chinese cities resound to a cacophony of firecrackers and fireworks during the festival in an effort to scare off evil spirits and attract the god of wealth to people's doorsteps.

Parents and grandparents give red envelopes stuffed with cash to children, sometimes hiding them under pillows on Chinese New Year's eve to ward off evil and bad luck. Denominations of the number eight are considered best, because "eight" sounds like the expression for "to get wealthy."   Continued...