Today is the beginning of the Chinese new year. The holiday, known as the Spring Festival, begins on the first day of the first lunar month and ends on the 15th day, called Lantern Festival. This is a major holiday for the Chinese and is also celebrated in places with large ethnic Chinese populations like California. It's also celebrated in other Asian nations that have been influenced by China, like Vietnam where the holiday is known as Tet (yes, as in Tet Offensive).
Chinese New Year is celebrated with dragon dances and fireworks.
Red is the color associated with the holiday because of the belief that red chases away evil spirits and bad fortune.
In Chinese astrology, 2009 is the Year of the Ox and it is a Yin Earth year. Since the ox is described as calm and steady, dare we hope for a less volatile year than the last one which was a Year of the Rat? I do hope so.
My friend Teresa tells me that on Chinese New Year's eve you are supposed to eat fish so you'll float into the new year on a sea of prosperity. On New Year's Day you're supposed to wear new clothes so you can start the year with a clean slate. I like these ideas, just wish I'd had a chance to plan ahead a little more. Actually, Teresa had told me some of this before the end of 2008 so I had clam chowder on New Year's Eve to ensure prosperity in 2009. Hope it worked.
Wikipedia has lots of information on the holiday and on Chinese astrology. The photos are from my trip to Portland's Chinese Garden last March. (Note: link to Teresa's blog added at 10:40AM)