Chinese New Year is one of the biggest celebrations of the year in the Chinese culture. This holiday has built up many traditions over the centuries. Chinese New Year is also known as Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival. This holiday is a 15-day celebration that starts on the first day of the Chinese lunar month. Each New Year also brings about a new animal from the Chinese Zodiac. For example, 2010 was the "Year of the Tiger." And 2011 will be the "Year of the Rabbit" and will fall on Feb. 3. The 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

Chinese New Year also brings about many practices that are seen around the world. For example, during the celebration, there will be a passing of red envelopes. Usually, adults give these red packets to children, or the married will give to the unmarried. These envelopes almost always contain money. This practice signifies the passing of good luck for the New Year.

There are many traditions that are practiced around the world, but one of the most important aspects of the New Year is the food. During the festivities, families will gather dinner on a nightly basis and partake in traditional foods that also have significant symbolism.

In addition, there are many phrases that are pronounced throughout this wondrous celebration, but the most important one to know is: Gong Xi Fa Cái.

Have a prosperous year!

Last, but not least, Happy Chinese New Year!

Julie Chen owns Panda Garden in Ahwatukee Foothills, 4730 E. Warner Road, Suite 14. Reach her at(480) 598-9018.

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