Millions of people across Asia and around the world are preparing to celebrate Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, the most important of the traditional holidays among several Asian nations.

The New Year begins Sunday and according to the 12-year Chinese zodiac, this year will be the year of the snake, taking over from the dragon of 2012.

Among the iconic festivities marking New Year’s Eve are the colorful dragon dance, lion dance and fireworks. It is believed that the loud beats of the drum and the deafening sounds of the cymbals accompanied by the lion and dragon masks can expel the evil spirits.

Red-colored oval lanterns, reminiscent of the Jack-o'-lanterns, are widely used for decorations particularly on the fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year.

Other decorations include Chinese calligraphy posters showing traditional Chinese idioms, Chinese knots and couplets.

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Beyond the obvious cultural significance tied to the Chinese calendar, the Chinese New Year is strongly associated with a colorful variety of Chinese traditions, myths and superstitions. China's cultural heritage, spanning more than 5,000 years, has imparted symbolic meaning to the festivities and customs followed by Chinese communities worldwide during the celebration.

Though snake is a creature so many communities despise, it has been held in high regard in China and among several other Asian communities.

“In China, snakes are usually called small dragons,” a Global Times commentary on China’s mythological and tradition association with snakes say. “Many believe that the dragon imagery was derived from snakes. Although dragons can sport horses' heads, deer horns, fish scales and the claws of eagles, the body is always that of a serpent. Snakes have also been a common totem in parts of China, like the Tujia ethnic group living around the borders of Sichuan, Guizhou and Hunan provinces. The ancient people who lived in today's Fujian Province used to have snake tattoos as a form of worship,” Global Times said.

However, since the years of snake in recent history saw two unfortunate incidents — 2001 when Sept.11 attack happened and 1989 when the Chinese government cracked down on pro-democracy protests around Beijing's Tiananmen Square — some fear that the “year of snake may bite.”

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