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Chinese Lunar New Year 2012

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Today marks the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year 2012, the Year of the Dragon. One of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, the dragon signifies good fortune and power. In the Chinese astrological cycle, this year is also associated with the element of water, which makes 2012 the Year of the Water Dragon -- an emblem of optimism and growth that comes around only once every 60 years. People around the world are ushering in this auspicious year with displays of fireworks, family get-togethers, temple visits, and street festivals. Collected below are images from several countries where revelers have been welcoming the arrival of the Water Dragon. [34 photos]

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Thousands of people visit a lantern festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Dragon in Shanghai, on January 23, 2012. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of people visit a lantern festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Dragon in Shanghai, on January 23, 2012. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)
A performer breaths fire during a dragon dance performance in celebration of the Chinese New Year at Manila's Chinatown district, on January 23, 2012 in the Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) #
Dancers perform during a parade held to welcome the Chinese New Year in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, on January 15, 2012. (AP Photo/) #
A reveler writes "Dragon" in traditional Chinese characters and "2012" with fireworks in Beijing, on January 22, 2012. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images) #
A woman holding incense prays for good fortune on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing, on January 23, 2012. (Reuters/Jason Lee) #
Chinese folk artists perform the lion dance at a temple fair to celebrate the Lunar New Year of Dragon on January 22, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Feng Li/Getty Images) #
Nicasio Leong Magdaraog puts some finishing touches on the head of a dragon for the start of celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year, on January 20, 2012 in Manila's Chinatown district, Philippines. (AP Photo/Pat Roque) #
A man walks past red lantern decorations for the Chinese New Year in Yuyuan Garden, downtown Shanghai, on January 17, 2012. (Reuters/Carlos Barria) #
An actor wearing traditional costume takes part in an ancient Qing Dynasty ceremony in which emperors prayed for good harvest and fortune as part of the opening of the temple fair at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing, on January 22, 2012. (Reuters/David Gray) #
The Empire State Building is seen lit in red and yellow to mark the Chinese Lunar New Year from the Brooklyn borough of New York, on January 20, 2012. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton) #
Members of the Chinese community watch a dragon mask procession celebrating the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Kolkata, India, on January 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Bikas Das) #
A performer reaches out for the gift being dangled from a supermarket during a dragon dance performance in celebration of the Chinese New Year at Manila's Chinatown district, on January 23, 2012 in the Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) #
A worshiper burns joss sticks welcoming the "Year of the Dragon" at Longhua Temple in Shanghai, China, on January 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) #
A woman burns incense to pray for good fortune on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing, on January 23, 2012. (Reuters/Jason Lee) #
South Korean army soldiers bow to respect for their ancestors as they celebrate Lunar New Year at their base near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Cheorwon, South Korea, on January 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Yonhap, Kag Un Na-rye) #
Young Chinese performers dressed in dragon costumes prepare to perform at a temple fair to celebrate the Lunar New Year of the Dragon on January 22, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Feng Li/Getty Images) #
A man holds oil bottles as offerings as he prays during the first day of the Lunar New Year at Dharma Bhakti temple in Jakarta, on January 23, 2012. The Lunar New Year begins on January 23 and marks the start of the Year of the Dragon, according to the Chinese zodiac. (Reuters/Supri) #
Local residents walks while fireworks are lit as part of Chinese new year celebrations in Shanghai, on January 22, 2012. (Reuters/Carlos Barria) #
Fireworks light up the skyline of Beijing as residents celebrate the start of the Chinese new year on January 23, 2012. (Reuters/David Gray) #
A resident watches fireworks as part of Chinese new year celebrations in Shanghai, on January 23, 2012. (Reuters/Carlos Barria) #
Divers perform a dragon dance during an event to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year at the Shanghai aquarium, on January 19, 2012. (Reuters/Carlos Barria) #
In this January 22, 2012 photo, Indonesian ethnic Chinese release a lantern to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara) #
Amateur artists perform a fire show to celebrate the Chinese new year in Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, on January 22, 2012. (Reuters/Ilya Naymushin) #
A Chinese man attaches a blessing tablet with his wishes for the new year on the first day of the "Year of the Dragon", at the Dongyue Temple in Beijing, on January 23, 2012. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images) #
A performer dressed in traditional costume and wearing makeup drinks tea as he and others prepare to take part in Chinese new year celebrations at the 700-year-old Dongyue Temple in Beijing, on January 23, 2012. The temple is the largest of its kind in northern China for the Zhengyi school of Taoism, and was originally built by Taoist monks in the 14th century. (Reuters/David Gray) #
Pedestrians cross the road near a dragon decoration installed for the Lunar New Year in Singapore, on January 16, 2012. (Reuters/Edgar Su) #
Kelly Hoang and her son Scott Hoang play with sparklers outside a temple in Chinatown, on January 22, 2011 in Singapore. Thousands of people converged on Chinatown to usher in the Year of the Water Dragon. For the Chinese, The Year of the Water Dragon is said to bring abundance, and good fortune. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images) #
Decorative red lanterns are hung on trees at a temple fair to celebrate the Lunar New Year of Dragon, on January 22, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Feng Li/Getty Images) #
A performer warms her ears with her hands as she takes part in the opening ceremony of a Spring Festival Temple Fair to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year at Longtan Park in Beijing, on January 22, 2012. (Reuters/Soo Hoo Zheyang) #
Visitors walk past dragon-shaped lanterns set up for the upcoming Spring Festival in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on January 16, 2012. (Reuters/China Daily) #
Temple fair performers with cartoon-dragon-shaped balloon costumes rehearse for upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year, the year of the dragon, near a roadside decoration showing Chinese character "spring" in Beijing, China, on January 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan) #
A girl lights incense sticks on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year at a temple in Kuala Lumpur, on January 23, 2012. (Reuters/Bazuki Muhammad) #
An illuminated LED dragon is seen at the 2012 Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade in Hong Kong, on January 23, 2012. The parade featured illuminated floats accompanied by local and international performing groups which entertained both locals and tourists alike on Chinese Lunar New Year. (aaron tam/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Chinese woman lights joss sticks to pray for prosperity and well being on the first day of the "Year of the Dragon", at the Dongyue Temple in Beijing, on January 23, 2012. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images) #

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