Lunar New Year preparations in Singapore. (photo: Nestor's Blurrylife via Flickr)

Happy Lunar New Year! The year of the rabbit begins today with the new moon.

I’ve cooked noodles for dinner tonight; they are a traditional new year favorite, symbolizing long life. And I’ve avoided sweeping the house today, caught myself just as I was about to start vacuuming. Sweeping on the first day of the year sweeps away one’s luck, according to Chinese superstition.

Asian countries have been celebrating for roughly 24 hours already, with many deafening displays of fireworks and firecrackers. In northeastern China’s Liaoning province, fireworks set off a blaze which burned down a five-star hotel — do check out the photos which I can’t share here. It’s amazing to see such a big structure in flames.

The year of the rabbit is supposed to be a year of rest and recuperation after this last year — a  tense year of the tiger. Given the unrest across the middle east and northern Africa, it looks like the year of the tiger is going to linger longer in some places than others. Astrologer Susan Leveritt suggests that the year be used to prepare as “Dragon Year 2012 will be very powerful, shamanic, a wild, exhausting time.” Thanks for the warning; if it’s worse than the year of the tiger, it’s going to be a doozy.

Did you forget to plan ahead to celebrate the lunar new year? No worries; Asians celebrate over the next two weeks, culminating in the Lantern Festival on the night of the full moon. And celebrate they do; many Chinese travel home for the holiday, just as Americans do at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Transacting business in Asia at this time of the year should be avoided, just as most of us would not recommend doing business in the U.S. between Christmas and New Year’s. Consider this your two-week warning for your next big celebration opportunity apart from Valentine’s Day — and the last big one before Mardi Gras on March 8.

So what sign were you born under in Asian astrology? No ages or years, please, just signs. You can check for yours here.

And don’t forget for the Vietnamese it’s Tết when Vietnamese wish each other a Happy Year of the Cat, not rabbit.