In myth, Chinese New Year began with a fight against a mythical beast called the Nian who would come on the first day of the year to eat livestock, crops, and villagers (children especially). For protection against the beast, villagers would leave food at the doors of their homes at the beginning of each year.
One day, when a small child wearing red scared away the Nian, the villagers came to the conclusion that the beast was afraid of the colour red. As such, every time the New Year was about to arrive, villagers would hang red lanterns and spring scrolls outside their windows and doors. Fire crackers were also used in belief that it would help scare away the Nian.
Dragon and lion dances are a common aspect of Chinese Lunar New Year festivities. It is believed that the loud beats of the drum and crash of the symbols together, with the face of a lion or dragon dancing aggressively, help to scare away or evict evil spirits.
As one of the Chinese Lunar New Year traditions, it is custom that every family cleans their house before the arrival of the New Year. This symbolizes the sweeping away of any ill-fortune in hopes to make way for good luck in the New Year.
As well, red packets or envelopes full of money are exchanged in order to supress evil spirits. Even amounts of cash are always given away as odd numbered giveaways are often associated with funerals. Typically, these red packets are presented from seniors, parents etc… to young people. Upon wishing their parents a happy and healthy new year, children are presented with these red packets.
Each Lunar New Year is associated with an animal. This Lunar New Year is associated with the Dragon. There are 12 different animal associations for each successive year. Next year is the year of the snake. Other animal associations are the horse (2014), goat (2015), monkey (2016), rooster (2017), dog (2018), pig (2019), rat (2020), ox (2021), tiger (2022) and the rabbit (2023).