Chinese New Year starts with the second New Moon after the winter solstice and ends on the full moon 15 days later.
Like all Chinese festivals it is determined by the lunar/solar calendar, so the actual date varies from late January to mid-February. In 2005 it falls on February 9.
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion, thanksgiving and remembering departed relatives.
Preparations for the New Year festival start during the last few days of the last moon. Houses are thoroughly cleaned, debts repaid, and new clothes bought.
Doors are decorated with vertical scrolls of characters on red paper whose texts seek good luck and praise nature, a practice that stems from the hanging of charms to keep away ghosts and evil spirits.
In many homes incense is burned, and also in the temples, as a mark of respect to ancestors.
On new year’s eve, houses are brightly lit and a large family dinner is served.
In China, the public holiday lasts for three days but the festival traditionally lasts until the 15th day of the new year and ends with the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade.
Traditionally, the years are named, in a 12-year cycle, after animals. In 2005 the Year of the Monkey gives way to the Year of the Rooster.