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Chinese Lunar New Year begins with petition

People celebrated the arrival of the Lunar New Year on Sunday in New York’s Chinatown.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

People celebrated the arrival of the Lunar New Year on Sunday in New York’s Chinatown.

NEW YORK — It’s the first day of the Chinese lunar year, and the year of the water snake came Sunday with an interesting twist: Tens of thousands of Americans want to make each Lunar New Year a holiday.

The names of 35,000 supporters of this idea are on a petition submitted to the White House. They want the president to give Lunar New Year ‘‘the same importance and weight as the other cultural holidays.’’

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In Manhattan on Sunday, firecrackers opened the New Year’s parade, with lion, unicorn, and dragon dance troops marching through Chinatown.

According to Chinese tradition, the wise and introspective snake brings rebirth and transformation. But when the 12-year Chinese zodiac turns from the dragon to the snake, it will also draw attention to one of the world’s most despised animals.

As undeserved as the snake’s reputation might be, its last two zodiac years did not go so well: 2001 was the year of the Sept. 11 attacks and 1989 was when Chinese forces crushed pro-democracy protests around Beijing’s ­Tiananmen Square.

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