The two-week celebration of the Chinese New Year begins Feb. 2, the eve of the new year, which in the lunar calendar is 4709.

Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit, designated according to the traditional 12 zodiac animals that mark the calendar. We are moving out of the Year of the Tiger, a ferocious year (no kidding!), into one that is much calmer and gentler, with less discord (hello, bunny!).

The meal served on New Year's Eve is the biggest feast of the year, reflecting thanksgiving and family unity. Symbolism is important during this meal, with foods chosen for the meaning they convey -- either representing good fortune or serving as homonyms in Chinese for words that mean "good luck" or "prosperity."

The following ingredients would be among those often found at the big feast:

Shrimp: happiness and laughter

Lettuce: prosperity and wealth

Chicken: a proper beginning and end

Green onions: intelligence

Noodles: longevity

Pork: bounty and family unity

Fish: abundance and surplus