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Usually one would want to avoid any and all association with pigs. Stereotyped as sloppy, lazy and unclean, the pig in most cultures is considered the lowest of animals -- but not if you're Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese.

Sunday marks the start of the Lunar New Year, the 4,705th, and this year is the Year of the Pig, named for one of the animals in the 12-year cycle in the lunar calendar, and the most auspicious year for starting out in life.

But not only that, 2007 is the year of the even-more-fortunate Golden Pig, a phenomenon that occurs only once every 60 years in the Chinese and Vietnamese traditions and once every 600 years in the Korean calendar.

Each year of the lunar calendar is assigned an animal from the Chinese zodiac: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog or pig. Legend states that the order of these animals was determined through a race in which the rat cheated by standing on the ox's head and jumped off when they reached the finish line, winning the race. Each animal is associated with specific qualities and traits that dictate and shape the lives of those born under it.

Children of the Year of the Pig are characterized as polite, honest, hardworking and loyal. They are also known for their luck, particularly in money and business, making pig years the most desirable for childbearing.

And so, since 2007 is the extra-special year of Ding Hai, the formal name for Golden Pig, families throughout Asia are crossing their fingers hoping that they get a lucky little bundle of joy.

"People really go to extraordinary lengths to have things happen on lucky days, lucky years," explained Deanna Lee, the vice president of communications at the Asia Society.

Officials throughout Asia, particularly in China, are expecting the 4,704th year in the lunar calendar to be especially crowded. If decreased condom sales and increased wedding arrangements are any indication, Ding Hai looks as if it's sparking a baby boom in mainland China. It is also expected to be a booming year for commerce.

The 15-day-long celebration, the biggest bash of the year, is one in which one-fifth of the world's population participates, and it spans from the streets of San Francisco's Chinatown to Hong Kong's lantern-lit harbor.

The Lunar New Year is an occasion to hold parades, family reunions, buy new clothes, give gifts and exchange red envelopes stuffed with money.

But aside from the things you must do on the New Year, such as hang red decorations in your home and set off fireworks, there also exists a list of things you must not do.

"You shouldn't say the word for 'four' during the Lunar New Year, because it also sounds like 'death,'" said Lee. "You also shouldn't buy pants … because the word for pants also means 'bitterness.'"

Whether you are superstitious or not, one thing's for sure: Anything that can bring the likes of Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Woody Allen, Elton John and Hillary Rodham Clinton together -- they were all born in the Year of the Pig -- was clearly fated by the stars.

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