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The Chinese New Year is Here!

One can ever have too many celebrations to herald the start of a brand-new year, so why not observe this weekend's celebrations for the Chinese New Year, which officially begins Monday.  Exploring ethnic New Year's festivities is a great way to immerse yourself in a new culture and make new friends.

College campuses, Chinese community associations, and businesses are places to look for calendars of local events. Events typically offer an array of Chinese cuisine, including  potstickers (Chinese dumplings), stir-fry dishes and shrimp-stuffed spring rolls.

Besides food, there are festivals featuring ethnic dancers where you can participate in Chinese folk dancing or lion dancing (not with a actual lion).

Parades with colorful costumes and music are customary. The main star of the parade, of course, will be a float or sky-high puppet of the animal symbol chosen to encapsulate the spirit of 2012 .

This year, it's the Year of the Dragon.

Some places also offer fortune-telling, so you can see what lies ahead for you over the next 12 months.

In addition to the fanfare, there are more serious ways of marking the most emphasized holiday on the Chinese calendar.  Many people choose to attend lectures on Chinese issues or partake of Chinese poetry events, operas, and theaters. Youngsters also can join in by attending library events featuring public readings of Chinese children's books.

For 5,000 years the Chinese New Year has been shrouded in mysticism, with people believing how you choose to mark the entry of the new year will bless or curse you for the future.