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Enter the Year of the Fire Rooster

Chinese New Year celebrations begin

Guests meet the dragon during the Dragon Dance at Jing Ying Institute of Martial Arts

Saturday, January 28 marks the beginning of the 15-day Chinese New Year, ushering in the year of the Fire Rooster.
    In the Chinese zodiac, every year is associated with one of 12 animals: Rooster, dog, pig, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat and monkey — the year we are ushering out. Each 12-year cycle is ruled by one of five elements: Gold (metal), wood, water, fire and earth.
    The Year of the Fire Rooster signifies a meaningful and intelligent period that could grant us a clearer picture of upcoming times. Fire Roosters are said to be trustworthy with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility. Famous Fire Roosters include Donny Osmond, Martin Luther King III and Stephen Fry.
    Traditionally, Chinese families gather for a reunion dinner on new year’s eve and on new year’s day clean their houses to sweep away bad fortune. Kids receive red envelopes filled with money and wishes for the new year.
    “You will see that nearly everything is done with red paper or paint,” says Betty McGinnis. “From paper lanterns and globes to Chinese knots, the use of red in the decorations denotes good luck, fortune, happiness and abundance.”
    McGinnis is president of World Artists Experiences, which brings cultural acts to the region, including a Chinese New Year celeration at Maryland Hall January 31.
    “We will have marvelous craftsmen from China,” McGinnis promises.
    The festival includes artists and artisans plus performances by the ­Beijing Traditional Music Orchestra, the Peking Opera and the Beijing Acrobats.
    “As with the American New Year,” McGinnis says, “we want to say farewell to the old and usher in the new.”
    A traditional way to chase away the old year is with a Lion Dance.
    The Lion Dance is associated with kung fu schools, says Billy Greer, owner of Jing Ying Institute of Martial Arts in Arnold, “because the footwork and head movements that operate the lion are similar to movements in kung fu.”
    The school’s Saturday open house featuers a Lion Dance as well as martial arts demonstrations.
    “The Chinese New Year is very much like all American holidays rolled into one,” Greer explains. “You have a big meal with the family, like Thanksgiving, you celebrate with lots of noise, parades and fireworks like our American New Year’s or Fourth of July, there’s costumes and going to visit neighbors, much like Halloween, and there’s gift-giving like at Christmas.”