Happy 4712th Chinese year!

Thursday, Feb. 19, marks the start of Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. The most festive of all Chinese holidays, the new year celebration begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice and will last for about two weeks.

Thursday welcomes in the beginning of the Year of the Goat. According to Chinese astrology, each year of the Chinese calendar is named for one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Those with birth years 1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003 and 2015 are said to have been born in the year of the Goat.

Chinese New Year decorations often include lanterns, cherry blossoms and orange trees. Plenty of red and gold colors are incorporated into celebrations, with red representing power and vitality and gold, wealth.

The Chinese traditionally prepare for the new year by cleaning house and paying off debts. The new year’s arrival brings the sound of drums and gongs and firecracker explosions to frighten away evil spirts.

But, the most important tradition is the very large family reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Special dishes are served, such as meats and an elaborately fried whole fish which signifies prosperity. Dumplings are traditionally eaten on the first day of New Year celebrations because they, too, are believed to bring prosperity. And, coin-shaped cookies are served to bring good fortune.