Chinese New Year is the most important holiday of the Chinese calendar. The New Year begins between January 21 and February 20. The celebration starts with the second new moon after the beginning of winter (December 21) and lasts until the next full moon.
The Chinese name their years after 12 different animals: the rat, the ox , the tiger, the hare, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, the pig. Some people believe that a human being's personality and character depends on the animal of the year he or she was born.
The Chinese New Year marks the start of the next animal's year. After the year of the pig the twelve year cycle starts over again with the year of the rat.
A lot of things are done for Chinese New Year. Houses are cleaned from top to bottom in the days before the beginning of the holidays. People write merry wishes on red paper and hang them all over the house. Rooms are decorated with flowers, plants and oranges.
On New Year's Eve firecrackers send out the old year and welcome the new one. At midnight people open all their doors and windows to let the old year out. On New Year's Day children and adults who are not married get red envelopes with money in them. This is a symbol of good luck and wealth in the new year.
Food plays an important part in Chinese New Year celebrations. Special dishes are eaten on certain days. Many kinds of food have special meanings. Uncut noodles, for example, might give you a longer life. People who eat a lot of raw fish are said to be more successful in life.
The last event of the 15-day celebration is the Lantern Festival. Some people hang glowing lanterns in temples. Others carry lanterns in a moonlight parade. In many places long colourful dragons made out of silk, paper and bamboo are carried on the streets by dancers.