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Fireworks and red underwear: Chinese saddle up for the Year of the Horse (+video)

The lunar new year starts Thursday night and kicks off an annual spring celebration for Chinese communities around the world.

Chinese celebrate start of Lunar New Year
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Today’s Google doodle celebrates the Chinese New Year, which kicks off tonight and ushers in two weeks of festivities across Asia

Friday, Jan. 31 is the first day of the year of the horse according to the lunar calendar, marking the end of the year of the snake. It's a day when families reunite to feast, houses get cleaned, new clothes are worn, and children receive red envelopes with “lucky money” in them (a custom in China and some other countries).

The holiday travel period is the largest human migration on the planet, with 3.65 billion trips expected to be taken this year over a 40-day period. (Check out an interactive visualization of Lunar New Year travel routes in China from Baidu, China’s leading search engine.)

The Chinese zodiac is based on a cycle of 12 years, each celebrating a different animal. The year of the horse is shared by anyone born in 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002 – and, naturally, 2014.

But if it’s your year, keep the champagne on ice. Chinese philosophy cautions that people born under the same zodiac sign as the calendar’s designated animal should brace themselves for a particularly difficult year. Put another way, people born under the sign will this year sit “on the ruling god's head” on the zodiac chart, Chinese zodiac specialist Lin Abbott told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Ms. Abbott is an adviser to the City of Sydney, Australia. Her advice for the horse-born is to “to lie low and let it peacefully go past” so as to avoid “clashing with the gods.” To fend off bad luck, you can also try taking a long overseas trip or throwing a big party, she advises.

Another traditional method to ward off bad luck is to wear red – from outwear to underwear – which may account for a slight uptick in the regional sales of red lingerie, Reuters reported yesterday from Singapore

Lunar New Year Festivities often continue through the springtime Lantern Festival, the day when thousands of people parade giant paper dragons through the streets.

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