Chinese New Year Eve usually is on 30th lunar day of 12th lunar month. However, a lunar month might have only 29 days. In this case, the Chinese New Year Eve becomes on 29th day of 12th lunar month. The next day will be a new moon day, which is the Chinese New Year Day 中国新年除夕.
The centuries-old legend on the origins of the New Year celebration varies from teller to teller, but they all include a story of a terrible mythical monster that preyed on villagers. The lion-like monster’s name was Nian (年) which is also the Chinese word for “year".
The stories also all include a wise old man who counsels the villagers to ward off the evil Nian by making loud noises with drums and firecrackers and hanging red paper cut outs and scrolls on their doors because for some reason, the Nian is scared of the colour red.
The villagers took the old man’s advice and the Nian was conquered. On the anniversary of the date, the Chinese recognize the “passing of the Nian” known in Chinese as guo nian (过年), which is also synonymous with celebrating the New Year.
On this day, families travel long distances to meet and make merry. Known as the "Spring movement" or Chunyun (春运), a great migration takes place in China during this period where many travellers brave the crowds to get to their home towns.
Though the holiday is only about a week-long, traditionally it is a 15-day holiday during which firecrackers are lit, drums can be heard on the streets, red lanterns glow at night, and red paper cut outs and calligraphy hangings are hung on doors. Celebrations conclude on the 15th day with the Lantern Festival.
Food is an important component to New Year. Traditional foods include nian gao 年糕 or sweet sticky rice cake and savoury dumplings - which are round and symbolize never-ending wealth.
Nian gao - Chinese New Year's cake