Chinese New Year 农历新年 (also known as Spring Festival 春节) is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It starts with the new moon on the first day of the new year (in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar) and ends on the full moon 15 days later.
Chinese families give their homes a thorough cleaning during the days leading up to the new year. This is believed to get rid of the bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for good luck. Buying new clothes, shoes, and getting a hair-cut also symbolize a fresh start.
On New Year’s Eve (除夕), every family has a sumptuous dinner. It’s a time for family to get together for eating, catching up and staying up all night (shou sui 守岁), waiting for the new year to arrive. In northern China, it is customary to make dumplings (jiaozi 饺子) after dinner and eat them around midnight. Shaped like ancient money, dumplings symbolize wealth. After the dinner, some families go to temples to pray for a prosperous new year by lighting the first incense of the year at midnight. Also at midnight, it is customary to set off firecrackers. This was traditionally done to scare away demons.
The New Year’s Day is for welcoming the gods from the heavens and earth. Many people abstain from eating meat because it is believed that this will ensure longevity. In addition, it’s a time when families visit the most senior members of their extended family to pay respect. Members of the family who are married also give red envelopes (hong bao 红包) containing cash gifts to happy children and teenagers. But no one is supposed to clean. Cleaning on this day is seriously bad luck, as you might sweep away all the good fortune.
The second day, traditionally known as gui ning (归宁), is for married daughters to visit their own parents. Traditionally, daughters who have been married may not be able to visit their birth families whenever they wish. In addition, the Chinese pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods.
On the third and forth days, sons-in-laws pay respect to their in-law families.
On the fifth day, also known as po wu (破五), people eat dumplings (jiaozi 饺子) to celebrate the birthday of the Chinese god of wealth. However, everyone is supposed to stay home to welcome his arrival, and it’s bad luck to visit anyone on this day.
From the sixth to the tenth day, families go out to visit relatives and friends with gifts.
The seventh day, ren ri (人日), is a special day for farmers and it’s also believed to be the birthday of all mankind, so everyone grows one year older. It’s traditional to eat noodles to ensure long life.
The 15th day of the new year is celebrated as Yuan Xiao Festival (元宵节). Tangyuan (汤圆), a sweet sticky rice ball brewed in a soup, is eaten this day. This day is also known as the Lantern Festival, and families walk the street carrying lighted lanterns at night under the full moon. This day also marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.
For more details on the festivities of the Chinese New Year, check out this Wikipedia article here.