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Chinese will mark their New Year with food, fun, old songs

Mee Len Koh is looking forward to today's start of the Chinese New Year, although she enjoyed the holiday a lot more when she was a child in Malaysia.

“I remember my mom used to sew new dresses for us - it was a really big thing,” she said.

In America today, the annual Chinese New Year celebration - which, by custom, lasts for 15 days - isn't celebrated as intensely as it is in Asian countries, Ms. Koh said.

“It's not a big thing here, but in China it is,” she said.

Still, many American families of Chinese ancestry will celebrate the New Year this weekend by getting together for food, games, and fellowship to kick off the Year of the Snake.

Ms. Koh, a project director for Toledo's Asian Resource Center, said a local celebration will be held from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at the China Buffet, 2325 South Reynolds Road. The event is open to the public.

Ms. Koh chuckled when asked what significance the Year of the Snake is supposed to hold.

“If you're born in the Year of the Snake, you're supposed to be wise, with a tendency toward physical beauty but tend to be vain and high-tempered,” she said. “They also say you're compatible with the bull, but not the pig.”

The Chinese zodiac operates on a 12-year cycle and each year is represented by a different animal, including the snake, rooster, dog, boar, rat, and ox. The Year of the Snake ends Feb. 11, 2002.

The Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Festival, celebrates the beginning of a season. Chinese tradition holds that the Year of the Snake is an unpredictable year and could be “good” for scandals, romance, and science and technology.

Some traditions observed during a New Year's celebration include singing old songs and giving children “lucky money,” which is a small amount of money in red packets.

Ms. Koh said she believes it's important that Chinese Americans continue to celebrate the Chinese New Year because “it bridges the gap” between the old and young generations.

Those born in the year of the Snake include those born between Feb. 6, 1989 and Jan. 26, 1990; Feb. 18, 1977 and Feb. 6, 1978; Feb. 21, 1965 and Jan. 20, 1966; and Feb. 14, 1953, and Feb. 2, 1954.

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