The Lunar New Year is here. A time to gather with family and friends and celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Rooster.

The “Chinese New Year” has become a more global holiday and interest in the Lunar Calendar also seems to be growing. Google has been sharing some Lunar New Year traditions as videos and games from around the world.

This is a year of the Rooster (simplified Chinese: 鸡; traditional Chinese: 雞/鷄) which is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese and other zodiacal systems which are related to the Chinese calendar.

The rooster is the only bird included in the Chinese zodiac, but the Chinese term is more generic, and can apply to barnyard fowl of either sex. In the Tibetan zodiac and the Nepalese Gurung zodiac, the more generic “bird” is in place instead of the Rooster, but the image of the colorful rooster is often used to represent it.

Cleaning house to prepare for family visits is often a part of New Year’s prep, but this cleaning is also a way to cast away bad luck.

In Chinese astrology, each zodiac year is associated with an animal sign and also one of five elements: Gold (Metal), Wood, Water, Fire, or Earth. 2017 is a Fire Rooster year. Element-sign combinations recur every 60 years. It was last a Fire Rooster year in the Western calendar’s 1957.

I learned that according to Chinese astrology, the year of one’s birth sign is the most unlucky year in the 12-year cycle.

For many Americans, today might only be celebrated with some Chinese food. There are lucky dishes associated with the New Year. If the holiday motivates you to get together with family and friends, that is a plus, even if you don’t do a dragon dance, or cast a “Lo Hei” blessing by virtually shredding food.

I’m planning to go out with a childhood friend that I haven’t seen in a few years. My wife is going to do some stir fry for dinner with some longevity noodles (长寿面 Chángshòu Miàn). Their length and unsevered preparation are symbolic of the eater’s life. They are longer than normal noodles and uncut, either fried and served on a plate, or boiled and served in a bowl with their broth.

I wouldn’t mind launching a sky lantern tonight. We made those as kids without knowing it had anything to do with Lunar New Year.  You can also do that virtually on that Google site, which is probably safer but not as much fun.