2Holiday SeasonChinese New Year is the most important of the Chinese holidays. It is a time for family reunions, feasting, celebration, fireworks and gift-giving.
3Holiday SeasonIt has been celebrated for more than four thousand years - marking the end of the long winter season and the beginning of spring. It celebrates the earth coming back to life and the beginning of the growing cycle. This is why it is also called the Spring Festival.
4Holiday SeasonChinese New Year is a 15-day holiday. It is celebrated during the second new moon after the winter solstice. It usually occurs between January 21st and February 19th. The Lantern Festival, held on the 15th day, concludes the New Year celebration.
5Lunar YearThe Chinese calendar is based on the lunar year, so the date of Chinese New Year changes every year. It is based on the cycle of the moon and the Earth's course around the sun.
6Chinese CalendarThe Chinese calendar follows a 12-year pattern with each year named after an animal. Every new year marks the end of the reign of one animal and the beginning of the next.
7The Zodiac StoryLegend says that… many centuries ago, the Jade Emperor, Buddha, invited all of the animals to a celebration. However only 12 of them came.
8The ZodiacTo reward the animals that did come, Buddha named a year after each of them in the order that they arrived, starting with the Rat, followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat (or Sheep), Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
9The Year of the Horse It is the Year of the Horse. In 2014, the Chinese year (4712) begins on January 31st and ends on Valentine's Day, February 14.It is the Year of the Horse.
10The ZodiacAccording to legend, people born in each animal's year have some of that animal's personality traits.In Chinese culture, the horse is a symbol of nobility, speed, and perseverance. People born in the Year of the Horse are said to be cheerful, talkative, and hard workers who can do many things at once.
11Holiday PreparationsPreparations for Chinese New Year begin about a week in advance with cooking, buying gifts and decorating.Typical decorations include red banners and decorative symbols which help scare away evil and attract luck. The Chinese also display flowers, especially peach and orange blossoms.
12Holiday PreparationsTo prepare for the New Year, Chinese clean their houses, repay any money they owe, get their hair cut, and buy new clothes. They also decorate their houses with signs that wish peace and luck for the coming year.One custom is to sweep dust to the middle of room and out the back door, which symbolizes sweeping away bad luck.
13FestivitiesOn New Year's Eve, families gather for the first big meal of the season. They dress in new clothes, often red, the New Year color.At midnight, family members fling open doors and windows to let the old year out.
14Holiday FoodsNew Year's Eve dinner typically includes dumplings, prawns, dried oysters and other types of seafood, pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet treats. Others choose to have a steamboat dinner. The steamboat dinner is a big pot of soup placed in the middle of the dinner table and lots of different kinds of foods like shrimps, fish, crabs, meatballs, fishballs, chicken meat, pork and vegetables are put into the pot of soup to cook.
15Holiday FoodsPopular snacks throughout the New Year include peanuts and mandarin oranges. A circular tray containing sweets and nuts, known as the "Tray of Togetherness," is also a favorite.
16Gift GivingEarly New Year’s morning, children greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year. In return, they receive money in red paper envelopes. The money must be in new bills, and the total amount must be an even number except those with a 4 (for example:$40) which symbolizes bad luck.
17TraditionsThe seventh day of New Year is known as Renri, the Universal Birthday of humans. It is the day when everyone grows one year older.This is also the day when Yusheng, a popular festive fish salad is tossed for good health, wealth, and prosperity.
18FestivitiesThe Lantern Festival is held on the 15th day, which is the first full moon of the year. Paper lanterns, parades, fire crackers, and dragon dances are all part of the celebration.
19FestivitiesSince many Chinese believe evil spirits are driven away by loud noises, the New Year celebration is very loud. Long strings of firecrackers are set off throughout the holiday, and fireworks light up the night skies.