2011 is Year of the Rabbit but for Chinese this is not the year 2011 but 4078. The celebrations of the new year start today, February the 3rd, and will end in 15 days time with the Lantern Festival.
Chinese New Year's Eve is a day when Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner.
According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian. Nian comes on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers put food in front of their doors. Once the Nian eats the food they have prepared, it doesn´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 colour 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, 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.
The fifteenth day of the new year is the Lantern Festival.Candles are lit outside houses as a way to guide wayward spirits home and families walk the street carrying lighted lanterns. This day marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.