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What is Lunar New Year and how is it celebrated?

On Feb. 10, Asian American communities around the U.S. will ring in the Year of the Dragon with community carnivals, family gatherings, parades, traditional food, fireworks and other festivities. In many Asian countries, it is a festival that is celebrated for several days. In diaspora communities, particularly in cultural enclaves, Lunar New Year is visibly and joyfully celebrated.

In the Chinese zodiac, 2024 is the Year of the Dragon. Different countries across Asia celebrate the new year in many ways and may follow a different zodiac.

What is the Lunar New Year?

The Lunar New Year — known as the Spring Festival in China, Tet in Vietnam and Seollal in Korea — is a major festival celebrated in several Asian countries. It is also widely celebrated by diaspora communities around the world.

It begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends 15 days later on the first full moon. Because the lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, the dates of the holiday vary slightly each year, falling between late January and mid-February.

What are the animals of the zodiac?

Each year honors an animal based on the Chinese zodiac. The circle of 12 animals — the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig — measure the cycles of time. Legend has it that a god beckoned all animals to bid him farewell before his departure from earth and only 12 of them showed up. The Vietnamese zodiac is slightly different, honoring the cat instead of the rabbit and the buffalo instead of the ox.

What are some beliefs and traditions around the Lunar New Year?

One well-known ancient legend speaks of Nian, a hideous monster that feasted on human flesh on New Year’s Day. Because the beast feared the