Commonly known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, it is the most important of all the festivals. This period of two weeks, represents centuries old tradition and symbolizes the beginning of the year, a signal to another fresh start in the life of each Chinese and a time of fresh hopes for happiness and prosperity among people.
Every year is related to one of the twelve sacred animals that belong to the Chinese astrology completing a continuous cycle. When the animal of your birth year is coming round again, it is a custom wearing red clothes.
The date of the New Year falls somewhere between late January and early February, depending on the Lunar Calendar. The festival starts the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar and continues for fifteen days. Of them, the most important days are Spring Festival Eve and the first three days.
There is a great excitement in the run-up to the festival. Weeks before, houses are cleaned meticulously in preparation for the holiday; tangerine plants, flower displays, paper money, drums and costumes are sold in stalls and shops; and nearly all places are decorated with good-luck messages.
The first day of the festival is marked by a family feast. Due to it is the beginning of a new period, the first meal is very important. Jiaozi or dumplings shaped like a crescent moon are eaten on that special day, sometimes with coins hidden inside. Families also eat fish for luck (in Chinese language, fish sounds like surplus).
In the countryside, itís normal to see fireworks (prohibited in the cities and replaced with cassette tapes and CDs of explosions) and images of door gods at the thresholds of the houses.
Away from home, New Year is openly celebrated at temple fairs, which feature acrobats, drummers, and clouds of smoke as the Chinese light incense sticks to placate the gods. The traditional Dragon Dance and Lion Dance are also performed at streets.
The celebrations finish with the Lantern Festival, when people with colorful paper lanterns dance in the streets. In several places there are also flower festivals and street processions with paper dragons and other animals parading through the town.
In this holiday (the first time when we see the full moon in the New Year) is usual to eat tang yuan, a tasty sticky sweet prepared with rice and bean paste.
Chinese New Year is a time to reaffirm family and kinship ties, settle all debts, and spread good intentions. It is common find reunion dinners, visitations among relatives and friends and exchange gifts; all of them serve to remind the Chinese of the essential position the family occupies in the society.
It is not recommendable traveling around the country during the Spring Festival because offices are closed and a lot of Chinese people move, making travel impossible or tremendously uncomfortable.