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Spring Festival

Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the longest and most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is often called the Lunar New Year. In the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year, a date between January 21 and February 20.  

Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese New Year vary widely.

People will pour out their money to buy presents, decoration, material, food, and clothing. New clothes are usually worn to signify a new year. It is also the tradition that every family thoroughly cleans the house to sweep away any ill-fortune in hopes to make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red color paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”.

In many households where Buddhism or Taoism is prevalent, home altars and statues are cleaned thoroughly, and altars that were adorned with decorations from the previous year are also taken down and burned a week before the new year starts, and replaced with new decorations. Taoists will also "send gods", an example would be burning a paper effigy of the Kitchen God, the recorder of family functions.

On the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families. Food will range from pigs, to ducks, to chicken and sweet delicacies. It traditionally includes fish, but not eaten completely, as the Chinese phrase "may there be fish every year" sounds the same as "may there be surpluses every year". The family will end the night with firecrackers.

Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes. It's sometimes distributed during the reunion dinner. These packets often contain money in certain numbers of money that reflect good luck and honorability, usually varying from a couple of dollars to several hundred. They are also known as Ya Sui Qian literally, the money used to suppress or put down the evil spirit. It is also common for married couples or the elderly to give red packets unmarried juniors.

The festival celebrations are marked by visits to kin, relatives and friends, a practice known as "new-year visits". Usually, the first day is a time when families visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended family, usually their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. People will visit relatives and friends during the next several days. Gifts are usually brought when visiting friends or relatives at their homes. Common gifts include fruits, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, candies, or some other small gift. The tradition is a great way to reconcile forgetting all grudges, and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian or "Year" in Chinese. Nian would come on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, the Nian never came to the village again. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nian became Hongjun Laozu's mount.

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