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Rabbit stamp joins Lunar New Year lineup

A new U.S. stamp celebrating "The Year of the Rabbit" continues the Chinese Lunar New Year series.

The rabbit is the fourth of 12 animals associated with the Chinese Lunar calendar. The stamp design incorporates elements from the previous series of Lunar New Year stamps, including an intricate paper cut-out of kumquats, which are eaten for luck and given as holiday gifts.

The Postal Service introduced its Lunar New Year series in 2008. The series will continue through 2019 with stamps for years of the dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and boar.

The Lunar New Year is celebrated primarily by people of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan and Mongolian heritage around the world. Parades, parties and other special events are common for the celebration.

Firecrackers are used to scare off evil spirits and welcome this time of new hope for the future. Costumed dancers wearing heads of papier mache and bamboo perform for delighted crowds.

Individuals born in the year of the rabbit are said to be sensitive, cautious, mannerly -- but definitely lucky.

Art director Ethel Kessler worked on this series with illustrator Kam Mak, an artist who grew up in New York City's Chinatown and now lives in Brooklyn. The artwork focuses on some of the common ways the Lunar New Year holiday is celebrated.

Although the new 44-cent stamp was released Jan. 22, the actual New Year begins Thursday.

Collectors interested in acquiring first-day covers may contact 1-800-STAMP-24.

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