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Gong Xi Fa Cai!

That's Happy Chinese New Year, to you.

The Year of the Rat - also known as the Chinese year 4706 - began on Feb. 7, and residents of Chinatown in Philadelphia spent two weeks ringing in the new year in style.

Chinese New Year is the most important of traditional Chinese holidays and is accompanied by parades, feasts and family reunions.

In Philadelphia, Chinatown saw two full weekends of celebration. Paraders dressed as lions and danced through the streets as traditional Chinese dragons weaved through the crowds.

In one particular dance believed to bring good fortune, men dressed as lions traveled from business to business, where they were presented with a head of lettuce attached to a red envelope filled with money.

After "eating" the money and spitting out the lettuce, the lions moved to the next establishment to repeat their dance.

Red costumes and decorations were the most common, as the color is traditionally thought to ward off beasts and demons in Chinese mythology.

Firecrackers - also serving as demon-deterrents - were set off throughout the day, but the billowing smoke and deafening noise only added to the excitement.

Those born in the Year of the Rat are often associated with strong leadership skills and high ambition. On the negative side, they are sometimes thought to be too stubborn or controlling.

This celebration marks the end of the Year of the Pig, and next year will be the Year of the Ox.

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