Celebrating religion: Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is celebrated on a different day each year. Since the Chinese calendar consists of both Gregorian and lunar-solar systems and the tracking of the new moon changes year to year, the Chinese New Year can begin anytime between late January to mid-February.

This year the celebration took place on February 14 and 2010 marks the year of the Tiger.

The Lunar New Year Festival, that takes place in China every year, can be traced back thousands of years. Famous legends and colourful stories tell the history of this tradition.

In the legend of Nian, an extremely vicious and fierce beast is believed to have devoured people on New Year's Eve. To scare Nian away, people still place lit torches and red paper couplets on their doors. It is believed that Nian fears the colour red, the light of fire and is frightened by loud noises. Fireworks are set off throughout the night to keep Nian at bay.

The next morning, people can be heard greeting each other with “gong xi fa cai” which means “congratulations” an acknowledgement of successfully keeping Nian away for another year.

Delicious food is shared on this day to ensure good luck, with each dish being given a special name. The Taiwanese share a dish called the “Five Blessings for the New Year.” It represents wealth, longevity, peace, wisdom and righteousness.

Lunar New Year celebrations usually last for several days, starting on New Year's Eve, but the festival itself lasts about three weeks.

On the fifteenth day of the New Year, the Lantern Festival fills the streets. People carry lanterns to a great parade where gorgeous, colourful silk dragons perform in a dragon dance. There are young men inside the costumes, which can be more than 100 feet in length, weaving and bobbing the dragon down the streets.

If you were born in the year of the Tiger (1962, 1974, 1986, 1998) you are said to be sensitive, sympathetic and a deep thinker. Possibly short-tempered, those born in the year of the Tiger often find conflict with authority. You can be suspicious of others, but also courageous and powerful.