Also known as the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year festival is centuries old and considered a major holiday for the Chinese, it's responsible for the largest mass migration of individuals during one celebration, in the world. This year (2019) Chinese New Year falls on the 5th February and is the year of the Pig.
Believed to have started as a result of fear surrounding a mythical beast called the 'Nian' that would eat villagers and children. However, this beast was terrified of the colour red and any loud noise, so the villagers would wear red clothes, hang red lanterns and surround themselves with firecrackers to keep the Nian away, until it was finally captured by an ancient monk.
Many communities celebrate Chinese New Year over 15 days, each day marked with a different event. It is also the time to honor one's elders and families visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, usually their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.
The biggest event of any Chinese New Year is the annual reunion dinner where people stay up late to welcome the arrival of the new year (just as many do for celebrate New Year's Eve in the Gregorian calendar). Believed to be the most important meal of the year, big families of several generations will sit together to share dishes with lucky meanings, such as fish, dumplings, and spring rolls.
Leading up to Chinese New Year:
Spring clean - Chinese families clean their homes thoroughly as it's believed that the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the previous year and prepares the home for good luck. Brushes and dust pans are promptly put away on the first day so that the newly arrived good luck cannot be swept away.
Decorations - Windows and doors are decorated with red colour lanterns with popular themes of 'good fortune', 'happiness', 'wealth' and 'longevity'.
Plenty of noise - including the lighting of firecrackers, fireworks, and burning bamboo sticks, designed to making as much noise as possible to traditionally chase off the evil spirits as encapsulated by nian (evil mythical beast). Usually done with the household doors sealed, not to be reopened until the new morning in a ritual called "opening the door of fortune"(simplified Chinese: 开财门 - the first day for the welcoming of the deities of the heavens and earth.
Lion Dance - Some families may invite a lion dance troupe as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Chinese New Year as well as to evict bad spirits from the premises.
Buying new clothes and shoes symbolizes a new start.
Giving money in red paper envelopes - the amount of which should be of even numbers (odd numbers are associated with cash given during funerals (帛金: báijīn). The number 8 (as symbolised in our 'Paw Prints' Gift Boxed Bar) is considered very lucky and conveys wealth, $8 / £8 is commonly found in the red envelopes in the US / UK. Sometimes chocolate coins are found in the red packets. It is also customary for the bills to be brand new printed money. Everything regarding the New Year has to be new in order to have good luck and fortune.
Giving of Chocolate / Sweets - Families often offer sweet foods in order to "bribe" the deities into reporting good things about the family.
Hair cuts - Any hair cuts must be completed before the New Year, as cutting hair on New Year is considered bad luck.
Clearing of debts - Businesses are expected to pay off all the debts outstanding for the year before the new year eve, extending to debts of gratitude. Thus it is a common practice to send gifts and rice to close business associates, and extended family members.
Known as "beginning of the year" was traditionally when married daughters visited their birth parents, relatives and close friends. (historically, married daughters didn't have the opportunity to visit their birth families very often). Some believe that the second day is also the birthday of all dogs and remember them with special treats.
On the third day, it is considered an unlucky day to have guests or go visiting, so everyone should stay at home. This is also considered a propitious day to visit the temple of the God of Wealth and have one's future told.
People normally return to work by the eighth day, so many Store owners host a lunch/dinner with their employees, thanking their employees for the work they have done for the whole year.
In China, Malaysia and Singapore, this day is celebrated by individuals seeking for a romantic partner, and is thought of as the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day. Normally, single women would write their contact number on mandarin oranges and throw it in a river or a lake, while single men would collect them and eat the oranges. The taste is an indication of their possible love: sweet represents a good fate while sour represents a bad fate.
This day often marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.