February 19th this year isn’t just another day – it marks Chinese New Year, most important holiday spanning a total of 15 days.
It is a festival that marks the start of the New Year according to the Chinese calendar, which begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Although China has used the Gregorian calendar since 1912, the New Year is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar.
Year 2015 is the year of the goat, although some refer to it as year of the sheep, too. This is because of the Chinese character “yang” which can mean either sheep or goat. Those born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1967, 1979, 1991 or 2003 are goats and their lucky colors include brown, red and purple.
Preparations are carried out very carefully – people clean their homes (it is considered bad luck to “sweep away good luck” on the first two days of the year), put up paper and lantern decorations and buy each other gifts.
Cash is given to children in red envelopes as “lucky money” and some children would sleep with the envelopes under their pillow for up to seven days to increase their luck.
The colorful street parades are famous around the world, with traditional lion and dragon masks, music and fireworks. Red clothing and elements are essential for Chinese New Year, as the mythical monster at the center of the New Year, Nian, was supposedly scared of the color red and fireworks, which have also become a key part of the celebrations.
Celebrations also occur in Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and the countries with significant Chinese populations. Both London and San Francisco claim to host the largest celebrations outside of Asia. Wish people a Happy New Year by saying “Xin Nian Kuai Le” in Mandarin or “San Nin Faai Lok” in Cantonese.