Chinese New Year is an important festival for the Chinese population settled across the globe. The festival is not confined to one day. It is celebrated over a period of fifteen days. The festivities of the Chinese New Year begin on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar and end on the fifteenth day. The Chinese calendar is also known as the Lunar calendar. The Chinese New Year is determined by the phases of the moon thus it falls on different dates every year, normally sometime between January 21st and February 20th. Each Chinese New Year is dedicated of one of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs, namely Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
The beginning and the history of this lively festival is not known entirely. According to the legend it started with a fight of the common Chinese villagers with a monster named Nian, meaning "Year" in Chinese. The villagers used red colored lanterns, scrolls and firecrackers to scare this mythical beast. This practice gave rise to the tradition of the Chinese New Year. Even though of Chinese origin, people all over the world celebrate the Chinese New Year. However, it celebrated with maximum enthusiasm in China, South East Asia and places with high Chinese population. People get into the "holiday mood" months before the Chinese New Year. They start cleaning their houses thoroughly. It is believed that cleaning the house sweeps away the bad luck of the year gone by. A number of people paint their houses red, as it is believed to be a lucky color. The color red has a huge significance in the celebrations of the Chinese New Year. People wear red-colored clothes, they hang red lantern outside their homes and even hand out red packets with money to youngsters. Most Chinese people buy new clothes and get a new hair cut on the start of the Chinese New year. All these activities are meant to prepare them for the new luck that the Chinese New Year brings with it.
There are also a number of practices and superstitions related to the Chinese New year. These differ from area to area and sometimes even from family to family. However, all of them reflect the importance that this festival has in the life of a common Chinese person. Many people abstain from eating meat during the first few days of the Chinese New Year. People visit their near and dear ones. They are kind to animals during this time and visit the graves of their departed family members. The last day of the Chinese New Year is called the Lantern festival. People walk on the streets with red-colored lanterns and light candles outside their homes. The fifteenth day is also reserved for a grand meal shared by all family members. Food is an important part of the Chinese New Year and only a specific kind of meal can be consumed on certain days.
The Chinese New Year is that time of the year when families come together. It is the time when people living in the same area and sharing the same culture celebrate the beginning of a new year together.