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It's the Year of the Pig! Google Doodle, White House and More Celebrate

To celebrate the lunar New Year, Google posted this doodle showing the "Year of the Pig." (Image credit: Google)

Welcome to the year of the Pig!

Yesterday's new moon kicked off the start of the lunar new year for many East Asian cultures, according to a blog post from Google celebrating the milestone. Today's "Google Doodle" celebrates both the Year of the Pig and the ancient art of shadow puppetry, which plays a role in new year celebrations.

The 12-year cycle culminates in the Chinese zodiac sign of the Pig, a symbol of prosperity in Asian culture. Legend holds that people born in the year of the Pig are sincere, good-natured and honest, according to Google.

Also known as Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year is celebrated in either January or February because the Chinese calendar is based on a lunar calendar that relies on the lunar cycle.

"The Chinese New Year falls on the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar," Jianguo Chen, associate professor of Chinese at the University of Delaware, told Live Science.

Traditional Chinese timekeeping relies on a sexagesimal system, with 10 stems and 12 branches. The 12 branches are paired with 12 zodiac animals.

The twelve-year cycle of the Chinese calendar rotates through a dozen animals, the final member of the cycle corresponding to hai, or pig.There are five types of pigs incorporated, named for the Chinese elements. For 2019, the corresponding creature is the Earth Pig, or jǐhài.

In the Japanese and Tibetan zodiac, the pig is replaced by the boar. 

Preparations for the Lunar New Year began well before today (Feb. 5), according to the Google blog post. Many Asian families cleaned and decorate their homes to sweep out last year's bad luck. That cleaning stopped with the start of the new year for fear of driving good luck out. The color red is prominent as a symbol of good luck. Throughout China, the holiday season, also known as chunjie, lasts for more than two weeks.

President Donald Trump also issued a statement celebrating the holiday, lauding it as "an opportunity for All Americans to honor the important contribution [people of Asian descent] have made to the story of American greatness." And NASA's "Moon" Twitter account got in on the action, pointing the way for readers to check the moon phase for any day of the year. 

Follow Nola Taylor Redd on Twitter @NolaTRedd or Google+. Follow us on Twitter at @Spacedotcom or on Facebook. Originally published on Space.com.

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