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Zoe Toigo, 9, of Mechanicsburg, stretches before performing with other dancers of the Chinese Cultural and Arts Institute of Harrisburg last Saturday. They performed through´out the 2007 Chinese New Year Celebration, presented by the White Rose Families with Children from China at the Advent Lutheran Church in Springettsbury Township. Chil´dren had the opportunity to wear Chinese masks with long trails that other children could hide under, becoming the body and legs of the dragon. All of this was done in preparation for coming Year of the Pig, which begins Sunday.<br />&middot; <a href="http://w2.ydr.com/forms/sendPhoto.php?photo=24124">E-mail photo</a><br />&middot; <a href="http://ydr.mycapture.com/mycapture/lookup.asp?originalname=020307-km-chinese-4.jpg">Order photo reprint</a><br />
Watch the Chinese New Year dancers

Feb 17, 2007 — Don't accept a ring this year; a promise ring, engagement ring, or wedding ring. If the relationship is shaky, it will bring you the suffer-ring,” Zehao Zhou, an assistant professor at York College, jokes while he explains that this coming Chinese new year is the year of the widow.

While he addresses the subject with humor, many take the superstition seriously. “We have a family friend (in China) who recently rushed to her village in the countryside to preside over her grandson's wedding and make sure it happened before the Chinese New Year,” Zhou explains.

In fact, thousands of couples across China have been rushing to tie the knot before the year of the widow begins Sunday.

Because of the rush, according to a recent Reuters report, a baby boom is about to hit parts of Asia. Some in South Korea are saying it is the best time in 600 years to have a baby. Condom sales are down and hospital bookings are up.

The pig is the last of 12 animals used to measure time in a cycle of 12 years in a calendar based on the cycles of the moon. Those who are born in the Year of the Pig are believed to be chivalrous hard workers who make friends for life.

The Chinese New Year is a time to do things such as pay debts, clean your house and get a haircut, so you can start the year with a clean slate and a clean spirit. At midnight, fireworks explode all over China to scare off evil spirits. Every door and window must be open in order to allow the old year out. Festivities with traditional lion dances and drumming also help keep the evil spirits away. Superstitions, religious beliefs, family traditions and political systems are intertwined.

“It is also a time to respect the family shrine; thank ancestors, parents and forefathers for the life they have blessed you with,” Zhou explains.

“There are 1,001 rituals about the Chinese New Year,” Zhou says. They vary from family to family, and region to region. “It is like Christmas, New Year's Eve, and Thanksgiving all combined to us in China,” he says of the 15-day period of celebration. “It is a very important time for loved ones to get together.”