Source: dailymail.co.uk, By Graham Smith
Millions of ethnic Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese across Asia are ringing in the new year with fireworks, feasting and family reunions.
From Beijing to Bangkok and Seoul to Singapore, people hoping for good luck in the Year Of The Dragon that begins today are visiting temples and lighting incense, setting off firecrackers and watching street performances.
For many, the Lunar New Year is the biggest family reunion of the calendar for which people endure hours of cramped travel on trains and buses to get home.
In ancient times the dragon was a symbol reserved for the Chinese emperor, and it is considered to be an extremely auspicious sign.
The new year, which traditionally lasts for 15 days, is the longest and most important of the Chinese holidays.
Much like New Year in Western cultures, the festival begins on the first day of the first month within the Chinese calendar. It ends on the date of the full moon.
This year it starts today, January 23 and runs until February 6.
Despite often being known as ‘Chinese’ New Year, the annual celebration is recognized by other Asian populations worldwide, within countries such as Thailand and Singapore.
Different years are represented by different zodiac animal signs – today marks the start of the Year Of The Dragon.
Perhaps the most recognized image within Chinese culture, the dragon symbolizes power, strength and good luck. In contrast to European beliefs, where dragons are considered evil creatures, they are seen as having auspicious power and it is seen as positive.
Often regarded as one of the most important signs in the zodiac, Chinese tradition dictates that those born in Dragon years tend to be brave, innovative and highly driven, regularly making it to the top of their profession.
Famous people born in Dragon years include former U.S. president Bill Clinton, actress Reese Witherspoon and artist Salvador Dali.
Those celebrating Chinese New Year mark the occasion by buying presents, clothing, food and decorations embracing popular themes such as wealth, happiness and good fortune.
Each of the 15 days has a particular role, and often those taking part in celebrations will abide by the traditional beliefs according to each day.
The first day is often set aside for people to honor the elders within their families, whereas the third day is generally accepted as a bad day to socialize with relatives or friends.
The final day of the Chinese New Year is traditionally marked by a Lantern Festival when people walk through the streets carrying lanterns and light candles outside their homes.
It is tradition to cleanse a house of all ill-fortune and to try to reconcile with others, removing negativity from your life.