Chinese New Year is one of the most important holidays of the year for the Chinese. It is celebrated, like our new year, on the first day of the first month of the calendar. The Chinese calendar, however, is a lunisolar calendar whose date indicates both the moon phase and the time of the solar year. This means a lunar month is two days shorter than a solar month. So that it can catch up with the solar calendar, an extra month is added in annually. For this reason, the date of Chinese New Year in relation to our calendar seems to change every year.
Chinese New Year celebrations are vastly different to the Western celebrations.. Rather than being over in a night, they last well into the month, often up to around 15 days into the next month. Houses will be tidied and rearranged, and symbolic ornaments will be displayed. Whilst the Western world tends to spend its new year with friends, the Chinese New Year has extra emphasis on family. People will usually visit family, see their friends, and partake in social activities such as shopping, going to see shows and fireworks and eating out together. Also frequent are religious ceremonies in honour of Heaven, Earth, the family ancestors and other gods. In modern China, most workers will normally have 7 days off including the weekend to enjoy the festivities. The cities of China become hugely busy as many visit cultural sites, and tourist destinations.
The origins of these celebrations are debated and very unclear. It is often said to have begun with celebrations during the Shang Dynasty (1766 BC - 1122 BC). However, a select few believe that it started from Emperor Yao and Shun (~2300 BC). The seasons of the celebrations would have sometimes been in winter, and sometimes in spring. Emperor Wu (157 BC - 87 BC) of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220), established the first day of the first month as the beginning of the year.
There are also mythical tales about the origins of the New Year. According to these tales and legends, Chinese New Year started with the battle against a a monster that they called the “Year”. The "Year" resembles a lion headed ox and lives in the ocean. On the eve of the new year, the “Year” will come out and attack people, farms and properties. However, people soon found out that the “Year had weaknesses” – the colour red, fire, and loud noises. For self-protection, people therefore took to the habit of placing red Dui Lian in front of their house as well as setting of fireworks, and hanging lanterns. The Dui Lian, also called antithetical couplet, is a pair of lines of poetry, often inscribed by hand on red paper and applied to the entrance of a house.