Chinese New Year is one of the most important celebrations in the Chinese calendar and is celebrated wherever Chinese people are found. The origins of Chinese New Year depend on who you are asking, but most of the myths involve a predatory dragon.
This dragon was driven away by fireworks, drums and red posters upon the advice of an elderly villager, hence the importance of these symbols today. The day of this new-found freedom from tyranny signified a new start, and has been celebrated on the second new moon after the winter solstice for the last 4 000 years, even though China has formerly adopted the Western Gregorian calendar in all its affairs.
This festival is considered an important time of renewal, a time to honour the household, heavenly deities and ancestors and families gather together for feasting and performing customary rituals.
Nowadays, the festivities have been renamed the Spring Festival and shortened considerably from the original celebrations which lasted several weeks. The Chinese youth have also become more westernised, preferring to take advantage of the holiday for relaxing and doing their own thing instead of observing the time-honoured traditions of the day.
Outside of mainland China, the largest Spring Festival Celebrations take place across the USA, which has a significant Chinese population. Other countries that observe this holiday include Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius and Philippines.
In China, the people begin their preparations weeks in advance by spring cleaning their houses and making arrangements to meet with family and friends. On the big day, everybody dons their red outfits, hangs red posters and ornate lanterns in their houses and lights firecrackers.
All of these items symbolise good fortune in some form. Red is the colour of fire to drive away harm, the posters symbolise good luck, the firecrackers are said to bring prosperity and luck in the New Year, and the lanterns stand for pursuing all things bright and beautiful
Parades including dragon dances, beating drums and gongs symbolise the defeat of that ancient foe and make for a spectacular and dramatic occasion for all to behold.