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Lunar New Year, Year of the Dragon, Begins Monday

Monday marks the start of the Lunar New Year, and celebrations are kicking off in Chinatown this week to welcome the Year of the Dragon.

Ryan Lee Wong, an assistant curator at the Museum of Chinese in America, said some consider it a lucky year to be born.

Demographers actually began to see a spike in births in Hong Kong and Singapore in 1976, which was also a dragon year, according to Wong.

“Each one of the 12 animals in the zodiac has a sort of astrological connotation,” he said. “People born in the Year of the Dragon are said to be, to have strong personalities, and be ambitious, and self-assured. On the flip side they can be strong-headed and egotistical.”

Wong said the dragon’s also unique because it’s the only mythical creature in the zodiac, and began appearing in Chinese culture and art some 2,000 years ago.

Chris Livaccari, with the Asia Society, pointed out some similarities between attributes assigned to Chinese zodiac symbols, and western horoscopes.

As in America, not everyone believes in those connotations.

“I think for most Chinese people, or other Asian, Vietnamese, Koreans, who are celebrating this holiday, the real significance of the holiday is very much like Christmas or Thanksgiving to most Americans,” Livaccari said.  “It’s a chance to, you know, get off work and really spend time with your family and friends, and sort of refocus on what’s important in life.”

Livaccari also noted that traditional celebrations can vary widely by region.

Here in New York, organizations in Chinatown are preparing for two weeks’ worth of activities. On Monday afternoon, a firecracker ceremony is planned in Roosevelt Park in Manhattan, and next Sunday, January 29, marks the 13th annual Lunar New Year Parade and Festival, which kicks off at Canal Street.

Flushing, Queens, also hosts its own Lunar New Year Parade, on February 5.