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Millions worldwide celebrate Year of the Dragon

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HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — Millions around the world are celebrating Lunar New Year with family reunions, food, and fireworks. For many, it's the biggest holiday of the year for which people endure hours of cramped travel on trains and buses to get home.

From Beijing to Bangkok and Seoul to Singapore, people hoping for good luck in the New Year that began Monday are visiting temples and lighting incense, setting off firecrackers and watching street performances of lion and dragon dances.

In Vietnam the New Year is known as Tet, a time to invite good luck into one's life while banishing the bad.

Preparations for Tet begin weeks before the actual date. There's shopping, decorating, and cooking of traditional dishes leading up to midnight. Bánh chưng, a tightly wrapped package of sticky rice and meat or bean filling, is among the most common.

The pace on streets picks up as the holiday approaches. Vendors begin selling calligraphy hangings and lucky money envelopes, known as and Lì Xì.

About Chinese New Year
  • The longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar
  • Chinese year 4710 begins on Jan. 23, 2012
  • Chinese months are reckoned by the lunar calendar, with each month beginning on the darkest day.

New Year's Eve is very similar to celebrations in Western culture. Hundreds of thousands gathered to watch fireworks and count down to the New Year. City streets emptied by the next morning as people returned home to spend the next several days with family and honoring ancestors.

Special traditions are observed to bring good luck to individuals. They include wearing red, paying off outstanding debts, and the giving of gifts. It is customary to not sweep your home or empty the garbage in the days following Tet because the good luck may be thrown out of the house.

January 23 marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon. In ancient times the dragon was a symbol reserved for the Chinese emperor, and it is considered to be an extremely auspicious sign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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