Lunar New Year celebration in Bejing, China Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images
Tue, Jan 24, 2012 9:00 AM EST

Lunar New Year was celebrated yesterday around the world. In the various Asian communities, inside and outside of Asia, Lunar New Year is the most important traditional holiday. It is as significant as Christmas is to the United States' culture, and it's so important that public schools in San Francisco have the day off, as do public schools in Tenafly, N.J., which has a large Korean American community. 

And though it's popularly known as "Chinese New Year," it's not just a Chinese holiday. In Vietnam, Lunar New Year is called "T?t" and is celebrated with similar traditions, such as red envelopes filled with money and dragon dancing. In South Korea, the New Year is called "Seollal" and is celebrated differently than the well-known traditions of Chinese New Year, but handing out money to children is still part of the tradition. 

Other Asian countries with large ethnic Chinese communities have adopted the traditions of Chinese New Year. It is celebrated in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and other Asian countries, as well as the many Chinatown areas in the Western countries.

The New Year is all about warding off bad spirits and starting anew with good luck and prosperity. Honor ancestors, pay respects to family and friends, make amends, eat good food and start the new spring season being protected from misfortune.

Happy New Year everyone, and welcome the Year of the Dragon.