As it is on the first day of the first new moon of the lunar calendar it could be anywhere from Jan 21st to feb.19th. like the western new year this is also about new beginnings and turning into a new leaf. Family ties are important here. Families try to get together.
On the 20th day of the 12th moon the preparation to begin the new year starts with the annual house cleaning. Good wishes and pictures,symbols of prosperity are seen all through.
Once the house is clean the Zaowang the kitchen God is bid farewell for on the 23rd of the last month he has to report the good behavior of the family to the gods in heaven. His farewell dinner is ritualistic and comprises of honey and sweet foods as a bribe.
Free from the kitchen gods watch the family prepares for his return, all commercial establishments are closed, debts are repaid gifts are exchanged. Food is also stored as the first week of the New year all commercial establishments are closed.
Interesting the Kitchen is not disturbed on the first day of the new year so all cooking is finished before hand. Sharp instruments like knives and scissors are put away as they could cut away the good luck!
The new year feast is a strictly family affair the place of an absentee member is maintained, at midnight the younger members pay respects to the elders.
On the new year day red envelopes called Lai-see are given with good money wrapped in , one wears new clothes lying, raising voices, using indecent language and breaking anything even accidentally is considered improper.
The social interaction and exchange of gifts occur on the second day.
The seventh day is everyone’ birthday people added an year to their birthday on that day rather than the day that they were born.
Fifteenth day is the Lantern festival in the evening people carry lanterns on the street, young men parade with colorful costumes performing the dragon dance. The dragons are created with bamboo, silk and paper.
The Chinatowns round the world maintain the traditions and adapt it a bit to the environment and physical limitations.
The legends say the beginning of the Chinese new year started with a fight against a mythical beast called Nian. This beast would devour, livestock, crops, children and sometimes even villages. The beast appeared on new year. The people appeased the dragon by leaving cooked food for him outside their door until they saw the dragon being scared of a child wearing red. It then dawned on them that the dragon could be warded off using the colour red. The following year the villagers hung red lanterns and scrolls light fires so that the dragon stayed away. Eventually a Taoist Monk Honguin Laozu captured the dragon and he became the monk’s mount.
Wishing all my Chinese friends a happy new year.