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Celebrate Chinese New Year With a Bang

dog on a parade float

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San Francisco celebrates the lunar New Year with elaborate floats like this one AARP is building for this year's parade on Feb. 24.

The Year of the Dog will be ushered in on Feb. 16. The Chinese New Year is different from Western New Year, which is celebrated worldwide Jan. 1. China and much of East Asia traditionally use a lunar calendar; each year of the 12-year zodiac is assigned an animal, and each animal's symbolic spirit is said to be part of the identity of people born in that animal's years.

People born in this year of the 12-year cycle — meaning people born this year, and people born 12 years ago, and 12 years before that, and so on — are supposed to be loyal, intelligent and friendly. Notable Year of the Dog A-listers have included Winston Churchill, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Prince William, Benjamin Franklin, Confucius and Queen Latifah.

Each year in the Chinese zodiac is associated with one of five elements: fire, earth, water, metal and wood. This will be the year of the Earth Dog, so anyone born this year or in previous Earth Dog years (the last time was 60 years ago) is expected to be persistent, meticulous and blessed with good fortune in wealth.

The New Year is a time of huge celebration in Asian communities all over the world. Here are the biggest and brightest parties and parades across the United States.

  • HTU/Shutterstock

    Celebrate Chinese New Year With a Bang

    2017 will be 4714, the Year of the Rooster, in the Chinese calendar. Specifically, it will be the Year of the Fire Rooster, something that comes around only once every 60 years. (Each year in the Chinese zodiac is associated with one of five elements: fire, earth, water, metal and wood.) The New Year in China is a bit like Christmas, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving and Eid al-Fitr all rolled into one. It’s a time to clean house, cook huge feasts, gather the relatives and hand out money to children — in red envelopes, for luck. Cities across the country will be lighting up their own celebrations. Here are the biggest and brightest.

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  • Judy Bellah/Alamy

    San Francisco

    San Francisco ranks behind New York and Los Angeles in the size of its Chinese population, but its annual New Year celebration is the most impressive. San Francisco is home to the original Chinatown, created in the mid-1800s when immigrants came to work during the California gold rush, and it prides itself on having the biggest celebrations outside China. A street festival will fill Chinatown, and a huge parade will snake its way through downtown at dusk Feb. 24. Plan on being on hand hours earlier to beat the crowds and stake out your spot for the best view. AARP is a proud parade and festival sponsor this year, so watch for its float, with the cutest dogs in the celebration!

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  • Getty Images

    New York

    The Big Apple's biggest parade will be Feb. 25 in Chinatown in lower Manhattan. Follow the noise of firecrackers and raucous lion dancers to enjoy the street party. With a second Chinatown growing in Flushing, New Yorkers can enjoy an early Chinese New Year Parade on Feb. 17 that is starting to rival the Manhattan parade.

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  • Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Washington, D.C.

    Washington's annual Chinese New Year parade Feb. 18 starts at the Chinatown in our nation's capital. You can expect dozens of diverse floats flanked by folk dancers, martial artists, lots of lion and dragon dancers, and loud and colorful firecrackers to grab your attention.

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  • Alamy

    Chicago

    The Chicago Chinatown Community Foundation's annual Lunar New Year's Parade will be Feb. 25, starting at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue. To pay homage to the Year of the Earth Dog, the Chinatown Community Foundation is inviting up to 28 dogs to join the parade. (They should be OK with loud noises!)

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  • Istock

    Dallas

    Dallas-Fort Worth is one of a short list of Southern metropolitan areas (along with Houston and Atlanta) with a significant Chinese population. The Crow Collection of Asian Art in Dallas will celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year on Feb. 17 with outdoor activities in the Dallas Arts District: lion and dragon dances, family art-making activities, calligraphy demonstrations, face painting, musical performances and fortune-telling. The free event ends with fireworks.

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  • Jose Gil/Getty Images

    Los Angeles

    The Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles is celebrating its 119th New Year Golden Dragon Parade on Feb. 17. Two dozen floats will make their way along Broadway in the city's Chinatown, which is a familiar site as a location for many Hollywood movies and television shows. Because of its showbiz connections, this parade has featured a slew of notable parade marshals, from Bruce Lee in the 1970s to Haing S. Ngor from the movie The Killing Fields, Kieu Chinh from The Joy Luck Club and Garrett Wang from television's Star Trek: Voyager.

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  • Dimitry Bobroff/Alamy

    Honolulu

    The Chinese community in Honolulu ushers in the Year of the Dog with a parade Feb. 10 starting from the State Capitol. Celebrations all day long with vendors and three stages culminate with "A Night in Chinatown," a party to remember.

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  • Danita Delimont/Alamy

    Seattle

    Seattle's International District lives up to its name with an all-day Lunar New Year Celebration that showcases pan-Asian culture from Chinese lion dances and martial arts to Hawaiian and Tahitian dance, traditional Thai dance, a Lunar New Year costume contest, Korean dance and a finale from a Japanese taiko drum group.

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