Spring Festival or Chinese New Year marks the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar. It is the longest holiday in the Chinese calendar and occurs between January 21 and February 20 every year. This holiday is also called the Lunar New Year, because the Chinese calendar is lunar-solar. As its name suggests, it also celebrates the arrival of spring after the winter solstice. The celebrations, customs and beliefs of the spring festival vary in detail depending on the region or time period.
The general practice is to try to start off on a new footing, after getting rid of the bad influences of last year, accompanied by signs of good fortune. Thus, several days before the arrival of the New Year every family prepares special food, buys new clothes, and cleans the house from top to bottom. In many homes, poems related to the spring feast are posted on the doors of the houses. Everything must be clean and new for spring feast. It is important to know that in China, the colour red is considered a good omen.
A series of colourful activities take place from the beginning of the Chinese New Year. Song and dance performances mark the celebrations. The best known are the famous dragon and lion dances. The symbol of the dragon in China is totally different from that of the evil dragons shown in Western movies. The popular belief is that the dragons are responsible for the rains and bring enough water to their fields. Thus, the dragon dance is very popular and shows the cult of the dragon. These legendary creatures represent the strength and power of the Chinese. In the past, Chinese emperors were considered the sons of the dragon.
The spring festival is also an occasion that reflects the warm atmosphere within the family. This is perfectly symbolized by the Hong Bao, a red envelope containing money normally offered to relatives, especially parents and grandparents. These tokens were distributed by the elders to children and unmarried youth. Above all, they had the symbolic value of bringing good luck throughout the New Year.
Chinese New Year is a time of fireworks. Indeed, the spring festival would be incomplete without the firecrackers that are part of the tradition. The firecrackers are always red because they symbolize happiness. The “passage of the year” takes place on the night of the last day of the twelfth month. The word meaning “year” is considered to be originally the name of a monster, Nian, who used to come prowl around the villages one night a year, forcing the inhabitants to keep quiet and watch until he left in the early morning.