Chinese New Year is the most important celebration for Chinese people all over the world. Also known as the Lunar New Year as it is based on the lunar calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New Year starts with the new moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon, 15 days later, with the celebration of the Lantern Festival (or Chap Goh Mei).
Chinese New Year marks the start of a new beginning for the Chinese. For some families, this is the only time of the year when all the family members have a chance to eat dinner together and to meet old friends and relatives.
Preparations begin about a month before Chinese New Year, where the Chinese shop for decorations, food and drinks, new clothing, groceries and tidbits. It is customary to spring clean the house to sweep away any trace of bad luck and make way for good luck and fortune. Some families will even renovate their houses or give them a new coat of paint. After that, the houses are decorated with paper scrolls and couplets inscribed with blessings and auspicious words like happiness, longevity and wealth.
During Chinese New Year day and several days that follow, relatives and friends, regardless of their race and religion, will visit one another to exchange good wishes, gifts and traditional New Year delicacies.
Food plays an important role during Chinese New Year. Certain foods will be consumed during this auspicious festival, as they possess positive connotations; for instance, fish represents abundance while mandarin oranges signify gold and the abundance of wealth. Another typical Chinese New Year dish is Yee Sang or Prosperity Toss, a Cantonese-style raw fish salad.
Although the customs and traditions of Chinese New Year vary from place to place in the world, the spirit of the celebration is similar - to have peace, good health, happiness and prosperity in the year ahead.