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Chinese folklore characterizes the horse as a symbol of prosperity and vitality - something that could bode well for the upcoming Lunar calendar year of 4,712. A fifteen-day New Year celebration begins Friday.

The Lunar New Year is China’s most important cultural celebration and this year it begins today.

Tina Liao is president of the Tucson Chinese Cultural Association. She said the celebration generates the worlds largest mass-migration as people rush to their hometowns to visit relatives.

"People in China, no matter where you are, will try to travel back to where the parents are…New Year's eve dinner during the New Year...that’s the most important thing; the family reunion," Laio said.

She said the Lunar New Year is like an entire country trying to have a family reunion…all at the same time. She has been able to go to China twice during the 25 years she’s lived in Tucson.

Because it’s not always possible to travel, it’s become important for her and other members of the Chinese-American community in the Tucson to preserve the cultural traditions of this important holiday –many of which involve food.

"Two things are a must… one’s the fish… the whole fish," she said. "Usually, the Chinese like to eat the whole fish, the whole duck, the whole chicken… suppose you have a whole fish and you have some left over…that’s the sign of prosperity. The other thing is the dumpling…the whole family gets together to make the dumplings."

Liao is a relative newcomer in a community of Chinese immigrants in Tucson made up of students, working professionals, and many long-time residents that have multi-generational roots in the Southwest. She came to Tucson 25 years ago to study at the University of Arizona, and she stayed to make a living and raise a family.

The Lunar New Year celebration lasts 15 days and concludes this year on Feb. 14.