The Chinese New Year is also known as the Lunar New Year and as the Spring Festival. It is celebrated by Chinese worldwide once a year, the exact date varying according to the lunar calendar, but always falling between mid January and mid February.* Chinese New Year this year (2001) begins on Wednesday, January 24, 2001 and will usher in the Year of the Snake, replacing the Year of the Dragon.

Chinese today celebrate the Chinese New Year with family gatherings and dinners. The most important dinner is the traditional Chinese New Year eve dinner where a feast of delicacies are prepared and eaten. In some places, "yu shang", a dish which includes raw fish is a must.

Houses are cleaned for the event and red trimmings are placed on doorways and windows. One weird custom is that on the first day of Chinese New Year, it is not auspicious to sweep the house.

"Ang pows"/"Hong Baos" or red paper packets filled with money/currency are given by elders to unmarried children and adults during the 15 day celebration and are supposed to bring luck. Families will visit their relatives and friends, bringing greetings from place to place, whilst children who tag along get given ang pows from each family (this used to be quite lucrative during my younger days).

Fireworks, lion dances and, sometimes, dragon dances are all part of how Chinese New Year is celebrated.

* - the Chinese figured out long ago how to correct the lunar calendar so that it would resync with the period of Earth's orbit around the Sun. This is in contrast to, say, the Muslim calendar, which also follows the phases of the Moon, but for which their New Year celebrations slips behind every year by a week or two.

With regard to alex.tan's remark:
"One weird custom is that on the first day of Chinese New Year, it is not auspicious to sweep the house. "

Some people believe that sweeping the floor on the first day of the Spring Festival would bring bad luck, as one would be sweeping all the good luck away from the house. However, there is another reason why sweeping the house is not encouraged.

The Chinese believe that everyone and everything deserved a rest on Chinese New Year's day, as most of the population would have been working hard around the year. The ancient Chinese did not have many public holidays like the modern world, so most businessmen would keep their shops open throughout the year. For Chinese women, who stayed at home to do the housework, every day would also be a workday. Chinese New Year was the only day in the whole year during which they could take a well-earned rest.

The ubiquitous household equipment like brooms, knives and the cooking stove are considered as living things as well. These pieces of equipment would be in service throughout the year, so the Chinese believe that they also deserve a rest during the first day of the Lunar New Year.

Therefore, no fires would be lit at the stove, no knives (or scissors) would be used and no floor would be swept during Chinese New Year. Food would be prepared the day before so as to give the women (and their equipment) a break.

p.s.: allseeingeye says re Chinese New Year: As a strange cultural flipflop to this, the Scottish believe it is bad luck to start the new year with a dirty house. We usually clean everything on the 31st! ;)
The Chinese also clean their houses on the last day of the New Year. In fact, they have a major clean-up of the house in the month leading up to New Year's. :)

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