Final preparations underway in San Francisco for Year of the Rat

People around the world and right here in the Bay Area are preparing to ring in the Year of the Rat.              

The sound and smoke from firecrackers is already filling the air in San Francisco's Chinatown, as the city prepares to ring in the new year.

Jenny Leung from San Francisco's Chinese Culture Center explained some of the significance of the holiday, starting with the traditional New Year wish Gung Hay Fat Choy.

"Xīnnián hi lok is more, 'Happy New Year.'' said Leung. "But, traditionally you'd just say Gung Hay Fat Choy, 'wishing you a prosperous year.'"

Saturday marks the beginning of the Year of the Rat, the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac.

According to legend the rat starts the calendar by edging out the other animals in a race.

"The rat hitched a ride on the ox and was able to jump ahead to the first in line. That's why it's the first in the Zodiac," said Leung.

Kids are already on the lookout for those red envelopes filled with money.

"Single people and kids, they get a lot of red envelopes. You have to go to the bank and get crispy money,' said Sarahvon Buenavista.

Red isn't the only important color, the mandarin is a traditional gift and treat. "The gold color symbolizing wealth and money, but also the name of the Mandarins sounds like prosperity," said Leung.

Another major part of the holiday, fireworks.

"It's a tradition that we do fireworks at the beginning of the year to kind scare away bad spirits and bad luck and start the new year," said Leung.

School kids are definitely happy to see Lunar New Year. The district has taken the day as a holiday since the 1990's and recognizes it as a holiday even if it falls on the weekend.