The Chinese New Year has a great history. Very similar to the Western one it has it's traditions and rituals.

The origin of the Chinese New Year is centuries old and is popularly recognized as the Spring Festival with the celebration lasting 15 days.

The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-yearcycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors.

Preparations begin a month in advance when people start buying presents, decorations materials, food and clothing. A huge clean-up gets underway, when Chinese houses are cleaned from top to bottom to sweep away any signs of bad luck. Doors and windowpanes are usually painted in red. The doors and windows are then decorated with paper cuts and couplets with themes such as happiness, wealth and longevity printed on them.

The eve of the New Year is perhaps the most exciting part of the event. Here, traditions and rituals are very carefully observed in everything from food to clothing. Dinner is usually a feast of seafood and dumplings, signifying good wishes. Delicacies include prawns for liveliness and happiness; dried oysters (ho xi) for all things good; and raw fish salad (yu sheng) to bring good luck and prosperity; Fai-hai, an angel hair-like seaweed for prosperity; and dumplings boiled in water (jiaozi) signifying a long lost good wish for the family. It is customary to wear something red to ward off evil spirits. After dinner, the family plays games together or watch programming about the New Year. At midnight, the sky is lit up by fireworks.

On the New Year day itself, an ancient custom called Hong Bao, or Red Packet, takes place. This involves giving children and unmarried adults money in red envelopes.

The end of the New Year is marked by the Festival of Lanterns, a celebration of singing, dancing and lantern shows.

Although the celebrations may vary by region, the underlying message is one of peace and happiness for family members and friends.

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