In case you didn't know it today is Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. This is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is often called the Lunar New Year, especially by people in mainland China and Taiwan. The festival traditionally begins on the first day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th; this day is called Lantern Festival. Chinese New Year's Eve is known as Chúxī. It literally means "Year-pass Eve".
Celebrated in areas with large populations of ethnic Chinese. Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the new year celebrations of its geographic neighbours, as well as cultures with whom the Chinese have had extensive interaction.
Chinese New Year is also celebrated and has, to varying degrees, become part of the traditional culture of in the Koreans, Mongolians, Nepalese, Bhutanese, Vietnamese countries. In Canada, although Chinese New Year is not an official holiday, many ethnic Chinese hold large celebrations and Canada Post issues New Year's themed stamps in domestic and international rates.
According to the many tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian or "Year" in Chinese. The Nian would come on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the chinese villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. It is believed that at one time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a child wearing red. It became understood by this villagers that the Nian was afraid of the color red. This is why when the New Year arrived the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on the windows and doors of their homes. Firecrackers were also used to frighten away the Nian. From then on, the Nian never came to the village again.
Chinese New Year celebrations are marked by visits to relatives and friends, a practice known as "new-year visits". For most Chinese people, returning home to their families is the traditional way to celebrate the new year. New clothes are usually worn to signify a new year. The colour red is liberally used in all decorations in the celebration of the New Year.
The Chinese New Year is traditionally celebrated over 15 days. Each day has a different meaning and tradion such as the second day is for the married daughters to visit their birth parents. Traditionally these daughters who have been married may not have the opportunity to visit their birth families frequently. On the second day, the Chinese pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods. They are extra kind to dogs and feed them well as it is believed that the second day is the birthday of all dogs. On day fifteen candles are lit outside houses as a way to guide wayward spirits home. This day is celebrated as the Lantern Festival, and families walk the street carrying lighted lanterns. This day marks the end of the Chinese New Year's celebrations. This year Feb 9 marks the end of the Chinese New Year's celebrations.
The Chinese zodiac system is based on animals. 2009 is the Year of the Ox, an animal that symbolizes calm, hard work, resolve and tenacity.