Happy Chinese New Year! Today, January 31, 2014 marks the first day of the Year of the Horse.

Chinese New Year is observed on the first day of the year of the Chinese calendar.  Because the Chinese calendar follows the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February. It is celebrated from Chinese New Year’s Eve, the last day of the last month of the Chinese calendar, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month, making Chinese New Year the longest festival in the Chinese calendar.

The evening preceding Chinese New Year’s Day is an occasion for families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. It is also traditional for families to thoroughly cleanse the house in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and make way for incoming good luck. Windows and doors are decorated with red color paper-cuts with themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity. Tradition also calls for lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes by married couples to single people, especially children.

Those born in 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, or 2002 were born under the sign of the horse, which represents one of the hardest working signs in the Chinese zodiac. People born in the Year of the Horse love wide-open spaces and possess an independent streak.  In 2014, horse people will have a prosperous year in which they can really shine, either personally or professionally. Famous people born under the sign of the horse include actors James Dean, Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford, actress Halle Berry, model Cindy Crawford singers Aretha Franklin and Janet Jackson, former U.S. Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O’ Connor and U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt.

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Honolulu

The United Chinese Coalition will celebrate with a Chinese New Year Festival Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1 at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza. This two-day-long celebration, which runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day, is free and open to the public.

Ala Moana Center has a three-day celebration to welcome the Year of the Horse. On February 1, there will be a special appearance by the Narcissus Court, Kung Fu demonstration, Lion Dance throughout the Center followed by a Lion Dance meet and greet from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Horse!