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Celebrate the Chinese New Year

Strength, energy and great expectations to come during the Year of the Horse

Happy Lunar New Year from AARP! Celebrating the Year of the Horse.

Year of the Horse — a year of strength, energy and great expectations. — DAE Advertising for AARP

Celebrated worldwide, the Lunar New Year is a time for family and friends to usher in good luck for the year ahead. On Jan. 31, we enter the Year of the Horse — a year of strength, energy and great expectations.

See also: Multigenerational living

In Chinese culture, the horse represents extraordinary strength, endurance and speed. According to Chinese folklore, nothing else in the sky compares to a dragon, and nothing else on the ground rivals a horse.

Yet unlike the mythical dragon, the horse is a real animal that embodies noble spirits and is one of the most reputable animals in the zodiac.

Countless stories about horses originated from historical tales and reflect the affinity Eastern civilization has for horses. Famous equines include the warhorses that Emperor Qin Shi Huang's army rode to unify China. In 1974, one of the most significant archaeological sites in decades was discovered when life-size terra-cotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations from the Qin Dynasty (211-206 B.C.) were unearthed in Xian, China.

It was also believed that a horse's character could be determined by its appearance. In the 3rd century B.C., horse physiognomist Bole began studying horses' bone structure and body parts to identify the fabled Chollima, a horse that races 1,000 li (about 250 miles) in one day. He identified the Chollima with unfailing accuracy and earned the reputation as a wise leader who knew how to detect talent in obscurity.

People born in the Year of the Horse — 1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990 and 2002 — are said to be open-minded, energetic, fearless, proactive and motivated. It's a year of possibilities and therefore an excellent time to change your life. A Chinese proverb says that "an elder steed in the stable still aspires to gallop a thousand li." With sound financial planning and investment, the Year of the Horse can become a year of accomplished goals, fulfilled dreams and, most importantly, good health and happiness.

Plan an authentic Lunar New Year celebration to jump-start a year full of success. Fun traditions include disseminating red envelopes filled with money, hanging signs of the Chinese character for "luck," and eating dumplings, fish and tang yuan (stuffed sweet rice balls) for good luck and blessings.

As always, food takes the center stage of the celebration. Some festive dishes to celebrate the Lunar New Year are:

1. Veggie and Pork Potstickers With Citrus-Soy Dipping Sauce

These crispy and juicy bites are an authentic Lunar New Year classic. The refreshing citrus-soy dipping sauce is an optional modern twist and makes the dish a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

2. Firecracker Shrimp

Turn the volume up on the traditional egg roll! This crispy finger food is easy to prepare, looks elegant on the plate and is fun to eat. Serve it hot buffet style or as an appetizer.

3. Chinese-Style Steamed Bass

The Chinese words for fish and surplus are homophones. Eating fish during the holiday signifies financial abundance in the coming year. This flavorful and healthy recipe prepares whole fish by steaming, the authentic method to cook seafood.

4. Glutinous Rice Balls With Sesame Stuffing

There's no better way than to end a feast with this sweet, soft and chewy traditional dessert. Their rounded shape symbolizes family.

May you have a fulfilled, healthy and happy new year!

Diana Wang is a freelance writer based in Boston.

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