The Chinese New Year begins Sunday, and several Southern California festivities are planned through the end of February to celebrate the Year of the Boar.
"With nearly 1.5 million persons of Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese descent living in the Los Angeles area, we should see big celebrations like the ones back in Asia," said Steven Lee, vice president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
In the U.S., Lee said, the term Chinese New Year is used interchangeably with Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by other Asian nations such as Japan, the Koreas and Vietnam.
The Chinese New Year was officially recognized in 104 BC when Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty established the lunisolar or lunar calendar. Some historians trace the new year's origins to earlier in that century.
It is based on cycles of the moon and sun and so does not usually coincide with the Gregorian calendar.
According to the Chinese zodiac, each new year is ruled by one of 12 animals -- rat, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, dog, horse, sheep, rooster, monkey, ox and pig, or boar. The Year of the Boar is associated with inner strength and courage.
Although the Chinese New Year officially begins this weekend, most festivities won't be held until the end of the month.
"The reason many events wait is because Chinese New Year is traditionally a day you would spend at home with family back in Asia," Lee said.
Some scheduled Southern California events:
* Today and Sunday: The Floral Street Festival in Monterey Park will feature food booths, traditional Asian-themed entertainment and pig races. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. each day.
* Today through Monday: Garden Grove's Vietnamese community will celebrate its 25th annual Lunar New Year festival with music, entertainment and food at Garden Grove Park, 9301 Westminster Blvd. It kicks off at 10 a.m. daily and is sponsored by the Union of Vietnamese Student Assns. of Southern California.
* Sunday: The Lunar New Year Parade in Old Pasadena begins at 10 a.m. on Colorado Boulevard. Apl.de.Ap, a member of the Black Eyed Peas, who is part Filipino, will serve as grand marshal. The city will hold a free festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Central Park at South Fair Oaks Avenue and East Dayton Street.
* Feb. 24: The San Gabriel Valley's annual Lunar New Year Parade is scheduled for 11 a.m. to noon along Valley Boulevard in Alhambra, featuring floats, bands, martial arts and a winding dragon. The parade is the centerpiece of a street festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
* Feb. 24: Orange County residents can take advantage of dancing and free food at a celebration sponsored by the Irvine Transportation Center, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Hundreds of free Metrolink tickets will be given out to encourage people to attend festivities in downtown Los Angeles.
* Feb. 24: Marking its 108th year, the 2007 Golden Dragon Parade in downtown Los Angeles is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m., beginning at Ord and Hill streets, and is expected to draw up to 150,000 people. The parade is being held in conjunction with a Chinese New Year festival that will run that Saturday and Sunday in Chinatown.