Philadelphians gathered in Chinatown today to celebrate the start of Chinese New Year.

"People light firecrackers and make big sounds," said Ling Quan, a world language teacher at Reynolds Middle School in Lancaster who brought a group of students to see the festivities. "It's a tradition to drive bad luck away, because today is the beginning of the new year and the spring season and everyone wants to have good luck."

The celebration also featured several performances of the dragon dance, another tradition believed to bring good fortune.

 

In addition to good fortune, today's participants ushered in the year of the snake. "It's one of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac," Quan said. Many astrologists say the sneaky qualities attributed to the snake in mythology means that the year may bring some unexpected turns of events. The year of the snake is projected to bring economic prosperity, as long as those in business don't engage in financial speculation, according to the South China Morning Post.

The Chinese zodiac also pairs one of five elements with the animal representing each year. For 2013, that is water. Water is closely associated with insight, intellectualism, education and research, meaning that this year could see significant developments in the field of science and technology.

The year of the water snake is also associated with rebirth and new beginnings, according to Feng Shui expert and hypnotherapist Mary Shurtleff. She said those entering into the new year can prepare by freeing themselves from old attachments and behaviors that are no longer productive.

But not all of today's celebrants came to Chinatown for the celebration's traditional implications. "It's loud and exciting," said Lauren Cook, who came to see the spectacle for the first time with a group of friends who hailed from as far as Montreal and Brazil.

Though they didn't know the traditional meanings behind all of the rituals, they enjoyed their visit. "We're looking forward to getting good Chinese food after," Cook said.

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