The Chinese New Year isn't strictly speaking a Buddhist holiday, but it does give Buddhists the opportunity to do a bit of navel gazing and meditating.
The Buddhist slant to the Chinese New Year gives Buddhists a chance to thank Buddha for looking after us last year. When I say that, I don't mean that Buddha is actually watching over people from some lofty heavenly perch, I simply mean that we can be thankful for the fact that Buddha left us guidelines to help us learn from the potential that comes from inside of us, even though that potential is covered up by layers of desire, aggression and plain old ignorance.
With Buddhism, dealing with what is happening in the here and now, and how we face the world is a far more useful tool as a guide for living than anything else. It's talking the talk, walking the walk, and actually living the belief. And what that belief comes down to, in its purest form, is our own self growth and self improvement by practicing loving and compassionate ways.
To me Buddhism is a way of inner enlightenment, without being side tracked by outside deity worship. One of Gautama Buddha's messages was that we cannot look outside of ourselves for our answers. Even his own teachings, in my opinion, were to be taken as a road map for others on the path, not some divine bible.. and those that pray to him as an actual deity have lost the message entirely.
It's up to each and every one of us to change and evolve and become aware of the Buddha within.
When when learn about the Buddha's teachings we learn about the very nature of ourselves. Our life drama becomes our personal dharma, so to speak. Chinese new year is a time to meditate on our truths and the way things are in our world. It's a time to wonder how much of our true potential is covered up by how we negotiate the world. We can ask, how much energy do I put into anger and aggression? How many mistakes do I made due to ignorance? How can I practice compassion in situations where it's most hardest for me to do so?
One thing I do know is that it takes a long time to peel back the layers to find the innate refuge within, but as Robert Browning put it, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"
In my heaven, I am free to feel, to think and to express. That way I learn to listen to the divine within myself and put my faith in the things that really count.