On January 1, most Americans wake up to a brand new year. In China, however, people celebrate the new year according to the Chinese lunar calendar. The Chinese lunar calendar is based on the moon's cycle, instead of our Gregorian calendar, which is based on the sun's cycle.
The Chinese New Year is one of the most important Chinese holidays. The celebration traditionally begins on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar (the new moon) and ends on the 15th day with a special Lantern Festival (the full moon).
Much like our New Year's Eve celebrations, it is a time for Chinese families to gather together to enjoy each other's company.
In many homes, families work together to clean the house. The cleaning symbolizes sweeping away any bad fortune to make space for incoming good luck in the new year. Families decorate windows and doors with red paper cutouts representing happiness, wealth and longevity.
On the eve of the Chinese New Year, families feast together. Fireworks conclude the celebration.
Early the next morning, children greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year. Then parents give their children money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year is a time for forgiveness and wishing peace and happiness to all.
According to Chinese legend, Buddha (the spiritual teacher from ancient India who founded the Buddhist religion popular in China) invited all the animals on Earth to join him for a celebration of the new year, but only 12 animals showed up. To reward those that came to the celebration, Buddha named a year after each of the animals in the order they arrived: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
When you were born, was it the year of the dragon? The ox? The monkey? The pig? Find out by looking up your Chinese zodiac.
2011 will be the Year of the Rabbit. Some people say those born in the Year of the Rabbit are talented and ambitious.
Rabbits may be quiet, calm and kind. They rarely lose their tempers. People tend to trust and admire rabbits. They may be good in business and financially lucky.
Other rabbits were born in the following years: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987 and 1999.