CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Despite all our best wishes, this has not been a very happy New Year.
If the polar vortex, sub-zero wind chills and never-ending snow haven't derailed your New Year's resolutions, the chemical spill and weeklong tap water ban probably have.
So let's start over.
Today marks the Chinese New Year. Celebrated by millions around the world, the holiday is full of traditions meant to ensure good fortune, health and happiness in the year ahead.
Yolanda Tam said the Chinese New Year is all about a "clean sweep." Chinese families clean their homes as the holiday approaches.
"It's more or less like a spring cleaning," she said. "You would sweep out any bad luck from the last year."
Tam, whose parents were born in China, said she grew up thinking every family celebrated New Year's on Jan. 1, and then celebrated it again in late January or early February.
Her grandparents always threw a large Chinese New Year's party, with lots of food and special treats for the children, like "lucky money" presented in red envelopes.
Red is a symbol of good luck in Chinese culture, and the money was meant to bring the children good fortune in the coming year. The amount could be anywhere from two dollars to $100, Tam said, but never came in single bills.
"You want good luck to come in pairs, so you don't ever give one of something. You give two," she said. "You wish double happiness, double good fortune."
The date of the Chinese New Year changes each year because it is based on the lunar calendar. The holiday is traditionally celebrated between three and 15 days, with businesses shutting down to allow workers to spend time with their families.
"It's the biggest holiday. It's almost like Christmas to us," said Dr. Xiaohong Zhang, a math professor at West Virginia State University.
Zhang said families in China usually celebrate New Year's Eve together, and then spend the second or third day with friends. Homes are decorated inside and out with paper cuttings, paper flowers red paper lanterns and other decorations.
On the streets, people celebrate with fireworks and "dragon dances," parades featuring long paper dragons, supported by marchers carrying long wooden poles.
Each Chinese New Year has a designated animal, based on the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac.