Today is the traditional Chinese New Year, the Year of the Snake, according to the Chinese zodiac. People born in snake years are intelligent but crafty; make sure you read the fine print when dealing with a snake.
Depending on which scholar you consult, the new year is 4710, or 4711, or 4650.
Technically, the holiday is a spring festival rather than a new year and it is observed by communities around the world, each with their own variants of tradition. Chinese New Year is related to the Mongol New Year, the Tibetan New Year, the Japanese New Year, the Korean New Year, and the Vietnamese New Year.
The extended holiday includes house cleaning, feast days of particular dishes, family reunions, food offerings for deities, honoring ancestors, noise and firecrackers to frighten away evil spirits, and the dragon dance or lion dance, which can be a parade that includes high school marching bands.
In many countries traditional firecrackers and fireworks are banned or partially banned or strictly supervised because of safety hazards.
The San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival and Parade is the oldest and largest event of its kind outside of Asia, and the largest Asian cultural event in North America, that officially dates back to the 1860s as a public city-wide event.
If you miss today’s celebration, there’s still time to join the festivities. The celebration concludes February 15 with the Lantern Festival.