Hong Kong Fireworks display

Then consider celebrating again. Only this time make it lunar-style. On February 7, the Chinese New Year begins, welcoming the Year of the Rat. — B.H.

The Chinese New Year, Explained

Who celebrates? This is the most important holiday in China and among populations of Chinese people living elsewhere. Reunions are common, and people take time off from work to prepare for the festivities.

How long does the party last? Fifteen days (though celebrations often begin before the official date), ending with a lantern festival when the moon is brightest.

What to wear? Red. It symbolizes fire and is said to have the power to expel bad luck. People write poems on red paper and give children “lucky money” in red envelopes.

What to expect from the Year of the Rat?This is a good year to socialize and to entertain — the rat loves a pack. People who are firm about their goals and aspirations can expect a fortuitous year. In spite of an unpredictable economic climate, the Year of the Rat is an excellent time to start a business, to invest, or to buy property.

What about people born in the Year of the Rat? These lucky rodents are said to be charming, charismatic, and practical. They tend to be leaders, conquerors, and pioneers. Famous ones: Hugh Grant, Sean Penn, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

New York City
Events begin early with the famous flower market in
Columbus Park on Mulberry Street, where hundreds of flower vendors sell fresh flowers for people to put in their homes (a Chinese New Year tradition). Stop by restaurants such as the Golden Unicorn on East Broadway and Catherine Street for special menu offerings. www.explorechinatown.com

, Australia
More than 600,000 people are expected to crowd the streets of Sydney in honor of the Year of the Rat. The citywide celebration includes 40-plus exhibitions, shows, and festivities. Don’t miss the Dragon Boat races in Darling Harbour on February 16 and 17.

Hong Kong
The city explodes in a dazzling display of color and frenetic energy all month long. Toast the holiday with a Nine Dragon cocktail in the lobby of the InterContinental Hong Kong, and scream along with all the other spectators as the multicolored dragon dances by during the famous parade. Stay until the last day to be wowed by a fireworks display.

San Jose, California
Eat your way through the Chinese New Year at Sino Restaurant & Lounge, where chef Chris Yeo offers a monthlong select menu with a contemporary interpretation of traditional dishes. In past years, guests have gobbled up kabocha squash cappuccino and seared scallops with edamame and chile-cilantro vinaigrette, among other delights.

Kick off the new year with an open house at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Food vendors offer Chinese favorites including Jai (vegetarian monk’s food), Gin Doi (a Chinese doughnut), Gau (New Year’s pudding), and Jook (rice soup). Ethnic dance troupes, local musical groups, and martial artists provide entertainment. www.chinatownhi.com

San Francisco
Don’t miss the annual Lunar New Year parade (February 23), where Miss Chinatown
USA and her attendants ride on elaborate floats amid costumed characters and a 201-foot golden dragon. True aficionados won’t want to miss the pageant beforehand, which features contestants from across the United States. www.chineseparade.com 

What animal are you? It’s easy: Just find the year you were born on the list below; the animal it corresponds to is your sign. (All you boars, you’ll notice we just finished up your year.)
Rat: 1900 1912 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008 2020
Ox: 1901 1913 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009 2021
Tiger: 1902 1914 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010 2022
Rabbit: 1903 1915 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011 2023
Dragon: 1904 1916 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012 2024
Snake: 1905 1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013 2025
Horse: 1906 1918 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014 2026
Sheep: 1907 1919 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015 2027
Monkey: 1908 1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016 2028
Rooster: 1909 1921 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017 2029
Dog: 1910 1922 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018 2030
Boar: 1911 1923 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019 2031