HOW TIME ZIPS BY—Today, February 19, 2015, Chinese year 4713 is scheduled to begin. It marks the first day of the New Year on the Chinese calendar.
< 2015 is the year of the Sheep.
The Chinese New Year is celebrated during the second new moon after the winter solstice, usually between January 21 and February 20 on the Gregorian calendar.
Chinese New Year festivities begin on the first day of the first lunar month on the Chinese calendar and continue until the 15th of the lunar month, when the moon is full.
Chinese legend holds that Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on New Year's Day and named a year after each of the twelve animals that came.
The animals in the Chinese calendar are the dog, pig/boar, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, and rooster.
Also, according to legend, people born in each animal's year have some of that animal's personality traits.
In China, the public holiday lasts three days, but celebrations take place over the entire 15 day period.
Families gather together for meals, especially for a feast on New Year's Eve.
Each day of the fifteen-day celebration has its own traditions, such as visiting in-laws or staying home to welcome good fortune.
Fireworks displays during Chinese New Year stem from a custom of lighting bamboo stalks on fire to ward off evil spirits.
Chinese New Year ends with the lantern festival, celebrated at night with displays and parades of painted lanterns.
The highlight of the Lantern Festival is the Dragon Dance. Beautiful dragons made of paper, silk and bamboo are held overhead, and appear to dance as they make their way along the parade routes.