NEW YORK (AP) – Thousands of people went hog wild in the streets of Chinatown on Sunday in celebration of the Lunar New Year, firing off a barrage of confetti, dancing in traditional lion costumes and devouring countless dumplings.

The day marked the beginning of the Year of the Golden Pig. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, which runs in a 12-year cycle. People born in pig years are supposed to be lucky, polite, honest, hardworking and loyal, according to Chinese astrology. Their lives are also prosperous, encouraging many Chinese to have babies in the coveted year.

Everywhere in the Chinatown neighborhood in downtown Manhattan, people reveled in the festivities, watching the lion and dragon dances. A nighttime fireworks show was scheduled.

The sounds of cymbals and heavy drums punctuated the air as did the smells of delicious dishes from the many restaurants. So did the noisemakers used to ward off evil spirits. At almost every step, the staccato of snap, snap, snap rang out.

Julia Hoo, who lives on the Upper West Side, said she goes to Chinatown for every new year.

“I don’t miss this,” she said. “It’s very important. It’s my heritage.”

The performers, dressed in ornate costumes, popped in and out of businesses, where shop owners fed them lucky money. The Chinese, who are admittedly superstitious, think this symbolic act is necessary to ensure a good year.

“I believe it,” said Daphne Lau, who works in a Chinatown candy shop.

Her store was selling plenty of new year kitsch, including porcine statuettes and lucky trinkets filled with chocolate.

But you didn’t have to be Chinese to appreciate the party.

Mike Sans, a lawyer from the Upper East Side, was having fun eating pork dumplings at a savory little place on a Chinatown side street. He even knew what pig year means.

“It’s my understanding there are going to be a lot of babies born in China,” he said. “I think it has something to do with prosperity.”

But he admitted that the celebration was just another excuse to visit Chinatown and chow down on the many tasty dishes.

“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s part of the whole experience.”

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